As no doubt everybody predicted this was a comfortable first round win for Roger and he barely had to get out of second gear. The first set although a close scoreline, didn’t really reflect the game – I think Roger lost 1 point on serve in that first set. He missed a couple of break point chances, shanked some balls in the windy conditions and Kukushkin served pretty well really to keep the match close. Roger later admitted he struggled to get a read on his opponents serve early on and this was pretty clear, his timing on the returns wasn’t great and he’d never played Kukushkin before who is what I’d describe as a plucky player.
The first set tie break was a one sided affair, Fed hit a few crisp forehands that got him into a 5-2 lead and he took the breaker 7-2. In the second, Federer found some more rythmn and broke to lead 3 – 2 when Kukushkin netted a regulation backhand, in true Federer style, he allowed his opponent to fashion 2 break points in the very next game – but he saved them pretty comfortably.
The 2 set cushion meant Roger could relax and it turned into a bit of a procession – some nice showy style shots, and he also tried some new things mainly chipping and charging. Something that doesn’t really come naturally to Roger, but you can bet your bottom dollar that Annacone is urging him to use it as a tactic. Afterall Sampras and Henman whom he both coached used this to great effect.
I struggled early on in the first set to get any read on his serve,” the Swiss told a news conference.
“But then I never really struggled on my serve. I was able to actually cruise almost, you know, through lots of my service games. That then maybe probably relaxed me at times maybe a bit too much. But overall it was a good performance.
Overall, for a first round match I was happy with Fed’s performance. His first competitive match on grass in tough windy conditions and he still managed to produce some Fed magic moments. I’m sure as the week goes on he’ll sharpen up his return game and get the timing a little better. Which no doubt he will have to do to beat the better players as the draw goes on.
His next opponent in Adrian Mannarino, who lost to British player James Ward at Queens last week should be an easy victory. To be honest, I’m struggling to see how this guy can win more than 2 games per set. From what I saw of him, his forehand is just going to get eaten up by Roger. It’s such a push shot that only real purpose is to get the ball back into play. It’s not as if the forehand is the weak area though – his serve isn’t especially big and his backhand whilst solid isn’t a shot that hits winners. So I’m opting for a 6-2 6-1 6-0 scoreline.