Thursday, January 17, 2008

A King's Path

Things couldn't have been easier yesterday for Roger Federer as he rolled past junk-master Fabrice Santoro in three quick and painfully lopsided sets in the second round of the Australian Open 6-1 6-2 6-0.

It was an especially daunting win by Federer, the world no. 1, after Santoro had much hoopla about his chances to beat the Swiss to the press. But the game of slice, dice and a little bit of luck was no match for Federer, who hit 53 winners in the 81 minute affair.

I usually try to steer away from writing about the Fed because of the frightening amount of coverage the King receives by today's media. He is a global super star in every way, a diplomat of the sport both socially and politically. When I interned at TENNIS Magazine last summer, Online Editor Kamakshi Tandon told me that anything they put up on Federer was sure to be gold. In other words, he is tennis' ultra superstar.

But with two rounds complete and just six games lost, Federer has been both brilliant and boring in his dominance of the Aussie thus far. In round three, however, the King's Path gets a bit rocky.

In the round of 32, Federer has a date with the Prince of Serbia - Janko Tipsarevic. Tipso's surge into the top 50 has been overshadowed by the rage that is Novak Djokovic, but the 23-year-old had a breakout tournament at Wimbledon last year, and has established himself as a dangerous floater here.

Though it's rather doubtful that Tipsarevic could actually pull the upset on the Mighty Fed, it wouldn't be too far fetched to say that the Serb may take a set - or two - from the man with 12 grand slams.

From there on out, things only get more difficult for the defending champ. In the fourth round, a possible match-up with Czech Tomas Berdych looms. Berdych hasn't lost a set in his first two matches, and has been broken just three times in six sets played. Their one meeting on hard courts, back at the Olympics in '04, was won by Berdych in three tight sets.

In the quarters Fed could take on James Blake (who's 0-7 lifetime against the world no. 1) or Fernando Gonzalez, who won the last match-up between the two players at Shanghai. Needless to say, Federer has his work cut out for him to get to the semifinals. But if history is any sort of predictor, the Fed will have his way not only with these players, but with the entire draw.

And for any of you who missed the delightful five-setter last night between Marcos Baghdatis and Marat Safin, catch it here:

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