Roger Federer is enjoying life in the fast lane in Brisbane as he laps up the type of speedy playing surface he has been advocating for years.
But how well it prepares him for the more-sluggish Australian Open venues remains to be seen, although the world number six said he always preferred to go from fast to slow, rather than be ambushed with a lightning surface at the start of a major tournament.
The top seed began his summer with a crisp 6-4 6-2 victory over Finnish journeyman Jarkko Nieminen on Pat Rafter Arena on Wednesday night and was quick to praise the slick courts, which amplify his natural attacking game and ability to end points as early as possible.
It was more than enough to keep good friend and tour veteran Nieminen reaching, with Federer warming into the contest on the back of nine aces and pinpoint power from the baseline.
The Swiss great has long been an outspoken supporter of faster playing surfaces in an era where many of the hard courts have been tamed, greatly aiding the defence of some of Federer’s greatest rivals.
Federer remains a fundamentally aggressive player and while slower courts make for longer rallies – pleasing fans and organisers – he’s come to believe the balance of power has been shifted too far in favour of noted scramblers like Novak Djokovic, who return the previously unreturnable.
“It’s an easy fix. Just make quicker courts, then it’s hard to defend,” Federer said after a loss to Djokovic in the ATP finals in London two years ago. “Attacking style is more important. It’s only on this type of slow courts that you can defend the way we are all doing right now.”
Brisbane seems to get his tick of approval, with Federer just one of the players noting the relative increase in pace on the plexicushion courts that have been baking in the Queensland heatwave.
Melbourne Park is played on the same surface but it tends to be notably slower. Federer won three of his four Australian Open titles on the faster Rebound Ace surface before it was controversially reolaced in 2008.
“It depends how Melbourne is going to be playing but I prefer to go from fast to slower because then you usually return better,” Federer said on Wednesday night.
“I like it a bit faster, to be honest. It’s just nice when the slider drags a bit or the slice stays a bit lower and guys don’t just eat it up, even though it’s a decent slice. So I think it’s a good thing that it’s a bit faster here.”
The pace of the surface will certainly play into Federer’s hands in Brisbane, where he is the top seed and hot favourite to collect the title in his maiden appearance.
At 32 and coming off his first season since 2002 where he didn’t add to his exorbitant tally of 17 Grand Slams, Federer is seeking every advantage he can get as he tries to stay in touch with the new group of faces now dominating the mens game.
Quicker surfaces would help, as may new coach Stefan Edberg, the Swedish serve-and-volley ace who will join his coaching staff in Mebourne after spending time in Federer’s camp in Dubai.
After a six-week break – a long one for Federer – the early signs were promising. He was pleased with his matter-of-fact disposal of Nieminen, a win that sets up a quarter-final with Australian Marinko Matosevic, who defeated American Sam Querrey earlier in the day.
The key facets of his game, the serve, the forehand, the net play, appear to be in good working order as he takes another step towards the opening Slam of the year.
“Tonight you come out of it and think, ‘Okay, I’ve been serving okay, my forehand is going well, my movement is okay, I’m seeing the ball okay, I’m getting used to the conditions’,” Federer said.
“I expect myself to play a bit better in the next match, even though today was already very good for a first match in so many weeks, to be honest, and against Nieminen who can play very good tennis.”
In the other result late on Wednesday night, women’s second seed and world number two Victoria Azarenka had an easy time of things against Australia’s Casey Dellacqua, advancing after a 6-3 6-1 victory.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.