© Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

Roger Federer will face left-hander Fernando Verdasco in the second round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

Federer: 'I Don't Fear Lefties Anymore'

Seven-time Dubai champion reflects on adapting to playing lefties

Roger Federer battled past Philipp Kohlschreiber on Monday in three sets to reach the second round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. In the second round, he faces another challenging opponent in left-hander Fernando Verdasco, who has long had one of the best forehands in the sport.

“I don't fear the lefties anymore like I did in my teenage years, so that's good,” Federer said. “I think that's because I was able to improve my game. Every player tries to play to your weakness or tries to make you play bad. No different with Verdasco.”

One of tennis’ greatest rivalries is between Federer and a left-hander: Rafael Nadal. At one point, the Spaniard led their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 23-10 (Nadal now leads 23-15).

But Federer has long been one of the world’s best players against left-handed opposition. According to his FedEx ATP Win/Loss Record, Federer is 125-36 against lefties in tour-level matches heading into his clash against Verdasco. That means that 64 per cent of Federer’s defeats against lefties have come against Nadal. While that may seem like a lot of losses against one left-hander, Federer currently ranks seventh in the Open Era in the category, at 77.6 per cent. Nadal has the best record against lefties, triumphing 86.5 per cent of the time.

Best Records Against Lefties In The Open Era

 Player  Winning Percentage  Player  Winning Percentage
 1. Rafael Nadal  86.5%  5. Mats Wilander  79.4%
 2. Pete Sampras  84.1%  6. Jimmy Connors  79.3%
 3. Andy Roddick  81.1%  7. Roger Federer  77.6%
 4. Boris Becker  80.4%  8. Lleyton Hewitt  77.3%

“I’ve played a few other lefties in the past, as well. I always thought it was hard to play left-handed servers because their strength goes into your weakness, your strength goes to — I don't know. It just doesn't work properly against the lefties,” Federer said. “For a one-handed backhand player, I have a great record against left-handed players. Obviously Rafa has caused me the most problems throughout. That's because of the level of play he's able to achieve.”

The good thing for Federer is that he has won all six of his FedEx ATP Head2Head battles with Verdasco. It doesn’t hurt that they’re playing in Dubai, where the 37-year-old has triumphed seven times and enjoys great support from the crowd.

“I do notice it. I do feel crowd support. They were doing the wave to cheer me up today because I was down in the score in the second set... Usually they do it when I'm in the lead,” Federer said. “They were chanting my name, so I took it as a positive. I can't complain. I get amazing crowd support basically everywhere I go. That's a real treat. I thought I was maybe at my peak in 2012. I couldn't become more popular or get more crowd support. It has gotten better even from then on.”

That support is something that never gets old for the Swiss.

“Definitely one of the big reasons why I'm still playing is to feel the crowd, to get close to them, try to hit good shots, try to put on a show,” Federer said. “Tonight maybe was not quite that, but I'm still around, so I get a second chance on Wednesday.” 

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