Roger Federer believed he had a better read on Alexander Zverev’s forehand than he did in the final defeat in Montreal and is convinced that gave him an advantage as he moved into the ATP Finals semi-finals.
The 19-time Grand Slam champion was pushed all the way by the young German, but came through 7-6 (8-6) 5-7 6-2 in a gripping contest.
Zverev had already proven he could take on the Swiss in the past and he is the only man to down the world No. 2 in a final during what’s been a remarkable 2017.
But Federer, who also had back problems during the final in Canada, believes his use of varied shots to Zverev’s forehands caused him problems.
‘I think I was able to read his forehand this time better than Montreal, where he had a lot of winners forehand and backhand,’ he said after the win.
‘It was also different types of conditions. It was outdoors. It was warm. Day session. Harder to see the ball, to be honest. So I just think I wasn’t quite reading his plays very well in Montreal, anyway, for a set and a little bit until I hurt my back.
‘But today I think I was able to stay the course and, you know, use my slice quite effectively, then try with variation to go into his forehand.
‘But, you know, you can’t always do it because the plays don’t always allow you to do it. I wasn’t doing a good enough job, to be quite honest, into his backhand with my backhand. I was always checking out of the backhand-to-backhand battles, switching it up to the forehand. I would like to stay more with him backhand to backhand.
‘Like I said, you know, there was a lot of chipping going on on the return. I would have liked to stay more aggressive on my return, at least, and something could have happened.
‘But I felt like, especially in the first set, I was going through phases where I was hardly making any returns. That’s something I was not going to accept. I was going to rather lose by making a lot of balls and maybe give him a chance at least to miss rather than just giving him empty free games time and time again.
‘So I think it was a tough match, you know, I think for both of us. We had some good moments, some tougher moments. I mean, he blew the first set tiebreak. Got lucky to get into it maybe. I was up a set and a break. So I was frustrated that I didn’t win the second set.
‘At the end probably being in the third set for both of us was maybe a fair result, I’m not sure.’
Zverev, meanwhile, took the positives from his defeat, and feels confident of reaching the semi-finals.
‘It’s always very important to keep playing I think against every opponent,’ he said.
‘I’d say I’ve done a good job of getting back into the match, winning the second set. Of course, the third set was a little bit upsetting by letting go a little bit too early.
‘But as I said, it was a pretty positive match. I think we both played pretty well. I feel very confident going into the Sock match.’