Federer: 'Rublev Was Super Clean. He Was Everywhere'
Roger Federer endured one of the most surprising losses of his career on Thursday at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, falling to rising Russian qualifier Andrey Rublev in just 62 minutes. But after his outstanding season, the seven-time champion sees little reason to ring the alarms in his first tournament since Wimbledon.
"I played 45 matches this year, so I think I should be fine,” said Federer.
Federer looked out of sorts from the start on Stadium Court, missing shots that would normally be clean winners and converting only seven of his 19 trips to the net. Part of his uneasiness in the match had to do with facing a brand new opponent, a rarity for the Swiss at this stage of his career. But Federer praised Rublev's clutch tennis as the main reason for the end result.
"If I play Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic, I know more or less what they are going to do or can do. That's different with a player you play for the first time," said Federer. "It's maybe a small advantage to have over us, but regardless, you've still got to hit the corners, hit the lines, keep it going. He did exactly that. He was really perfect today. It was a great performance."
After 21 years on the ATP Tour, Federer has a keen eye for which players have the potential to reach the highest levels of the game. He was impressed by what he saw in the 21-year-old Russian, who only lost four points on serve in the second set and dictated the tempo of most of their baseline exchanges.
"You need an opponent that maybe lets you get by some tougher moments, but he didn't do that," said Federer. "He was super clean. Defence, offence, serving well. Didn't give me anything. He was everywhere. It was tough for me, but an excellent match by him. I was impressed... I think I just have to play better overall to hang with him."
The Swiss will now turn his attention to the US Open, where he looks to win a sixth title and his first since 2008. In a season that has seen him win three titles (Miami, Halle and Dubai) in addition to runner-up finishes in Wimbledon and Indian Wells, he believes an extra few days of rest and recovery could be just as beneficial as match play.
“It’s also very important for me to see that I'm injury-free and I'm feeling good. Regardless of the outcome of this week, I'm happy I came here,” said Federer. “I had good practice sessions. I worked very hard coming into Cincinnati and in that little season we had since Wimbledon, so I can maybe also utilise a couple of days off. I’m going to train, do exactly what I need to do for the US Open and that’s it. It’s fairly simple, but I’ve got to work hard.”