Seven-time former champion and home favourite Roger Federer takes on eccentric but talented Frenchman Benoit Paire in the second round in Basel. Federer is still in the hunt for the year end #1 ranking after picking up another title in Shanghai. That was his third Masters 1000 crown of a year which also saw him raise his Major tally to 19. Paire, meanwhile, has had a typically inconsistent year making the fourth round at Wimbledon and the final in Moselle but failing to improve much on his ranking which is currently at #40. But there is no denying his talent and he likes the big stage. Can he upset the great Swiss?
Federer and Paire have met four times over the course of their careers, and Federer is yet to taste defeat. Indeed, he has not even dropped a set. Their first meeting came back in 2012 at Basel in the quarterfinals when Federer dismissed the Frenchman 6-2 6-2. In their second meeting, at the Australian Open in 2013, Paire was scarcely anymore competitive. He fell 2-6 4-6 1-6 to a clinical Federer performance. Their most competitive match came later that same year in Rome on the clay. Paire pushed Federer hard, but ultimately the Swiss came through 7-6 6-4 in the semifinals. Their most recent meeting was earlier this year in Dubai where Federer again put Paire to the sword, winning 6-3 6-1 in the first round.
Path to the second round
Federer, the top seed in Basel after Nadal’s withdrawal, began against America’s Frances Tiafoe. The teenager gave Federer a stern test when they met last, at the US Open in the first round. Federer was extended to five sets by a spirited Tiafoe performance. The American served excellently throughout that match and was able to dictate with his forehand. Ultimately, Federer had too much for him, but many expected the young gun to push Federer again. It wasn’t to be, as Federer dismantled his service game, breaking four times whilst winning every point on his own first serve. It was a dominant performance, and the scoreline reflected that as Federer ran out a 6-3 6-1 winner.
Paire began his campaign against another American, Steve Johnson. Paire began the match brightly, taking advantage of Johnson’s difficulty in coming over the backhand to take the first set by a single break, 6-3. The second set was more competitive, with both players serving well throughout. Ultimately it was decided by a tiebreak, and Paire playing better in the pressure moments. He won the tiebreak seven points to four to set up the clash with Federer.
How do they match up?
Federer is blessed with variety, and is possibly the best example of all-court attacking tennis that can be seen in the modern era. His volleys are superb, understandably so since he arrived on Tour during an era dominated by serve-and-volleyers. However, Federer is also an excellent baseliner, and it is that combination of styles that has allowed him so much success. Key to his baseline play is his forehand, which is amongst the best in the world. Federer’s topspin backhand has also improved dramatically this year, giving him another weapon offensively. He also takes the ball incredibly early, which can rush his opponents and may well be a problem for Paire.
The reason for that is the Frenchman’s groundstrokes have long takebacks. Particularly his backhand, the swing of which is perhaps best described as exaggerated. However, it is also a real weapon when he is able to get on top of it, and one for Federer to watch out for. Paire is also a fine mover, and his unorthodox style which is typically replete with a liberal use of the drop shot can be difficult to build a rhythm against. The match, however, will likely be decided by the serving contest. One can expect Federer to deliver a fine serving performance as ever, with a high first serve percentage and pinpoint accuracy. Paire has a powerful first serve, but can be plagued by inaccuracy and a high number of double faults. If those struggles continue against Federer, it is hard to see a path to victory for him.
Federer should win this match. He has the backing of his home crowd, a good history against Paire and is clearly comfortable at the St Jakobshalle. He also demonstrated he is in good form with his destruction of Tiafoe in the first round. Paire played well enough against Johnson but offered little to suggest he could seriously trouble Federer. The Swiss to win through in straight sets.
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