Tennis: Maestro rolls back the years

Roger Federer of Switzerland (above) serves against Jack Sock of United States during their semi finals match at the 2017 BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California, USA on March 18, 2017.
Roger Federer of Switzerland (above) serves against Jack Sock of United States during their semi finals match at the 2017 BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California, USA on March 18, 2017. PHOTO: EPA

Federer wins his fifth Indian Wells in a vintage display that left fans purring

INDIAN WELLS (California) • A rejuvenated Roger Federer beat fellow Swiss Stan Wawrinka 6-4, 7-5 in the BNP Paribas Open final on Sunday to earn a record-tying fifth Indian Wells title and the distinction of being the tournament's oldest winner.

The 35-year-old great, who made a stunning return from a six-month injury layoff to win the Australian Open in January, capped an impressive run in the California desert in which he did not lose a set.

"I have totally exceeded my expectations. My goal was to be top eight by Wimbledon. This is just a dream start," Federer, who has climbed four spots to world No. 6 yesterday, told Sky Sports courtside.

"I understand the talk about (me getting back to) world No. 1 with Andy (Murray) and Novak (Djokovic) not playing well and I'll try to back it up. But this is my 90th (tour-level) title so I'll try to enjoy this first."

Wawrinka, making his first appearance in an Indian Wells final, came out firing in the second set as he became the first player to break Federer this fortnight and then saved a pair of break points in the next game to move ahead 2-0.

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  • At 35 years, seven months, Roger Federer is the oldest Indian Wells champion – taking Jimmy Connors’ record at 31 years, five months

 

But Federer never wavered as he coolly won the next three games and then broke Wawrinka in the 12th game to close out the match in 80 minutes.

While the defeat left Wawrinka an emotional wreck, with the 2016 US Open winner calling himself Federer's "biggest fan", the popular champion was left to soak up a standing ovation.

Federer now joins Djokovic as a five-time winner at the event and becomes the oldest champion in the tournament's history, surpassing Jimmy Connors who was 31 when he triumphed in 1984.

The Swiss is also the oldest ATP player to win one of the elite Masters titles, supplanting Andre Agassi who was 34 when he won in Cincinnati in 2004.

"I was very sad when I couldn't come here last year (due to injury) so just being here is a beautiful feeling," Federer said.

"It's been just a fairy-tale week. I'm still on the comeback. I hope my body is going to allow me to keep on playing.

"I came here for the first time 17 years ago so to be here again as the champion is an amazing feeling. And I can't tell you enough what it means to me."

A tearful Wawrinka looked over to see Federer laughing at him and jokingly said: "I would like to congratulate Roger. He's laughing, he's an a*****e but it's okay.

"It's a tough loss. In a way, I'm really happy to make the final. It's a great result on that, but you always want more."

The 31-year-old world No. 3 was pleased to play at a high level, having experienced knee trouble after the Australian Open.

"I was really, really struggling with my knee. I wasn't sure to be back here in that level that quick," he said.

REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 21, 2017, with the headline 'Maestro rolls back the years'. Print Edition | Subscribe