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Fed Flips Scot like Burger-meat on the Barbie

Rog Wins 5th Dubai title, #72

March 03, 2012 | 03:09 PM

Before the Prince of Dubai could finish off his three quarter of a million dollar champagne in the portable throne overlooking his modern coliseum from the shade behind the baseline, Le Roi disposed of the unruly Scot, out-maneuvering him with forehands and forward assaults. The Scot parried as well as he could, but was clearly taken aback by the depth and vicious velocity of the attack which spun him around like a desert dervish.

As expected, there was little traction to be gained when Roger served. Fed lost 4 points in first four service games, playing with a confidence that no one's managed to shake from him in 6 months, at least in singles (his finish in the Davis Cup doubles was another matter, but he'd been carrying the luggish Wawrinka too long after the first set). Joker and Isner are the only men to have beaten him, both in 4 sets of near perfect tennis.

At 4-4, whether Murray was unready to seize a big chance when Rog served at 15-40, or whether Rog simply paralyzed him with more poison darts, the trouble was as soon dispatched as a bubble is burst. Within minutes, Andy was down triple set point. To his credit, he stepped up his game after Rog mis-played an easy forehand return of serve, and only with more brilliant offense did Rog put him away (an inside out forehand winner after three that rushed the Scot's two-hander into a reply, which fell short of the depth it takes to prevent the Fed-offense from shifting into winner mode).

There was no let down from Fed when the 2nd set began. By 2-2, Andy looked randy, as if he'd had enough for one day, and dropped his serve. That was enough to end it, though Andy did break back to tie the set at 4-4. But it's as if Rog is now playing at such an impossibly high level that the occasional mortal misses don't break his stride as they used to when his ball striking and tactical sophistication hadn't quite reached its present pinnacle. Andy was easily broken at 4-4, and even when Rog didn't convert his first two match points at 40-0, he remained as cool as the Prince under his awning, assuming the matter at hand could soon be dispatched by a stroke of briiliance.

So what have we learned in Dubai?

- Andy's still one match short of taking the top 3 in a final.

- Joker's not going to replicate 2011 this year.

- Rafa knows his own limitations (he hasn't won here in 8 years, and won't unless the Prince uses more of his kingdom's sand in the asphalt mix).

- Roger is the man to beat when the court is quick, and is the best #3 man ever (only someone like Serena can be so dominant without the weight of the #1 ranking behind her).

Rog seems hungrier than he did as #1. If only the seemingly ageless 30 year old star could move and defend like he did when he was twenty-something...

Play resumes this week in a desert half way around the world where bigger stakes are up for grabs for the top four doms who seem to more ready than ever to share the spoils that go with more titles (this was #72 for Federer and his 2nd this year). That is, unless Pasarell and Indian Wells owner Larry Ellsion, the Princes of Palm Springs, have allowed the sand of winter storms to speed their arena courts. If that were the case, we could count on Rog to win a title he relinquished after he completed a trifecta in '06, back when he still had the legs to stay with anyone, and before Rafa figured out that his topspin could annoy most anyone on asphalt if he ran down enough balls.


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