Seven-time former champion and home favourite Roger Federer takes on Frenchman Adrian Mannarino for a place in the Swiss Open semifinals. It has often been said that Federer enjoys ‘home turf’ advantage wherever he plays such is his popularity, but in Switzerland it is literally true. It will be a test then for Mannarino to play against both Federer and the crowd. All the more so considering the form Federer is in, having won in Shanghai last month to keep his pursuit of Nadal for the year-end #1 ranking alive. But Mannarino is having a good year himself with 32 match wins for the year. Will he have enough to upset the great Swiss in Basel?
Federer and Mannarino have faced off four times so far in their careers, and the numbers do not make great reading for the Frenchman. He has lost all four matches and has not yet taken a set off Federer. The first defeat for him came six years ago at Wimbledon in the second round where Federer dismantled him 6-2 6-3 6-2. Federer backed that up with another comfortable win later in 2011 en route to the title in Bercy winning 6-2 6-3 in the second round. They did not meet again until 2013 at the US Open. Federer had a poor year by his standards but still had enough to crush Mannarino in the third round, coming through 6-3 6-0 6-2. Their most recent meeting came at the St Jakobshalle four years ago in the first round where Federer was again a comfortable 6-4 6-2 winner.
However, whilst Mannarino has been comprehensively beaten in all of his matches against Federer so far in his career, he has improved considerably since they last met in 2013. Then he was ranked 60th in the world and his game reflected that ranking. Now inside the Top 30 he may well expect himself to give Federer a far sterner test.
Path to the quarterfinals
Federer began his Swiss Indoors campaign with a comprehensive win against Francis Tiafoe. Many had expected a difficult match for Federer after their last meeting at the US Open had been a five set thriller. But Federer had no such problems in Basel, dismantling the teenage American. He didn’t drop a point behind his first delivery in an imperious serving display and broke Tiafoe four times on the way to a 6-1 6-3 victory. Federer was equally convincing in his second round match against Paire, literally. He defeated the Frenchman by the same score he bested Tiafoe, again coming through 6-1 6-3 in a fine performance that will surely leave him confident for the week ahead.
Mannarino has taken a rather longer road to the quarterfinals. He opened against Ruben Bemelmans who recently made his first Tour-level semifinal in Antwerp. Bemelmans looked to continue that good form against Mannarino and certainly made the Frenchman work hard. But ultimately after a competitive first two sets, Mannarino’s quality shone through as he powered to the finish in a 7-6 4-6 6-1 victory. He then faced talented teenager Denis Shapovalov. The Canadian recently secured his place at the Next Gen finals to be played in Milan, and began brightly taking the first set 6-4. But Mannarino avenged his Montreal defeat to Shapovalov, again finishing strongly. He completed a 4-6 6-1 6-2 victory to reach the quarterfinals.
How do they match up?
Federer, though a supremely versatile player, has a game based on two excellent shots. The first is his serve which is amongst the most accurate on Tour. That makes up for a lack of pace compared to the other great servers such as Raonic and Isner. His serve is also famously difficult to read, with only arguably the greatest returner of all time Djokovic having managed to get a read on it consistently. The other strength is his forehand. Federer has always been able to take the ball early on that wing and dominate points with it. The switch to a larger racquet face has also allowed him to drive through the backhand more consistently than in the past, giving him a more varied attack from the back of the court than in previous seasons.
Mannarino has none of Federer’s attacking prowess. However, the Frenchman is an extremely hard worker and is relentless from the baseline. He also makes up for a lack of power by hitting the ball flat and early. His unusual style makes him hard to play against, and on a fast indoor hard court, he is a real danger. An interesting battle will be between the slice backhands of the two players. Federer’s slice has suffered since his switch to a larger racquet face but still remains an excellent shot. Mannarino’s slice is also a superbly effective shot. On the court at the St Jakobshalle which is slick and low bouncing the slice could be used to real effect by both men.
Mannarino has improved since they last met in 2013, but not enough to beat Federer. The court surface suits Federer and he will have the backing of his home fans. The Swiss is also in fine form and needs to win in Basel to have a chance of tracking down Nadal at the top of the rankings surely giving him even more motivation. Against that, it is hard to see what Mannarino will bring to truly trouble Federer. Federer in straight sets.
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