The world no.1 Roger Federer defeated Filip Krajinovic 6-2, 6-1 in the third round of the 2018 BNP Paribas Open. The Swiss advances to the fourth round where he is due to face Jeremy Chardy.

Coming into this match, Federer was riding a 13-match winning streak (17 including the Hopman Cup). The Swiss captured his unprecedented 20th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in January before winning another title at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam. This streak allowed him to regain the no.1 position in the ATP Rankings and become the oldest man ever to do so since the introduction of the ranking system back in 1973. His second round encounter with Federico Delbonis was not a pleasure cruise but he managed to level their head-to-head after losing his only previous meeting with the Argentinian at the 2013 International German Open. Federer won 6-3, 7-6(6). The match was originally scheduled for Saturday but had to be interrupted with the Swiss leading 6-3, 2-2 due to heavy rainfall. The players had to come back to play on Sunday which was supposed to be their day off.

Krajinovic was trying to follow-up his runner-up performance at the 2017 Paris Rolex Masters. The Serbian qualified for that event and won four matches in a row, including wins over Sam Querrey and John Isner, before finally succumbing to Jack Sock. Krajinovic missed this year’s first Grand Slam due to a minor injury. Before the BNP Paribas Open, he reached the quarterfinals in Marseille and semifinals in Dubai, losing both matches to Lucas Pouille. In order to book a match against Federer, he had to defeat an American qualifier, Mitchell Krueger.

 

Federer has never played Krajinovic before. Important note: Should Roger Federer lose before the semifinals, Rafael Nadal will recapture the world no.1 despite missing the BNP Paribas Open.

The Serbian won the toss and decided to receive. Federer got himself out of a 15-30 hole and broke in the second game. Krajinovic really proved his Rolex Paris Masters run was not accidental as he broke straight back and then held, saving two break points. He also showed some mental strength as he didn’t let a controversial foot fault call by umpire Mohamed Lahyani get into his head. We shouldn’t forget about Federer while praising the Serbian but it’s kinda explicable as we’re used to watching the Swiss play brilliantly and when Krajinovic plays on that level, it’s exceptional. It wasn’t enough though as the Serbian defended magnificently but Federer’s baseline aggression was just too much for him to handle. Two more breaks and the Swiss took the set six games to two, converting his first set point with a wonderful forehand get, showing some speed that is hard to believe a human being can possess at 36 years old.

In order to win against Federer, Krajinovic probably had to attack. Dictating play worked really well for him but he just couldn’t do it frequently. Federer didn’t miss a single return in the first set and almost each one of them was aggressive and allowed him to have a leading position in the point. At 6-2, 3-0 Federer won 30 out of the last 36 points. The Serbian finally broke the streak of seven games lost in a row and held. The Swiss even pulled his “neo backhand” out of the bag, striking it full power cross-court in a way that reminded of that legendary fifth set backhand winners from the 2017 Australian Open final.

Check the first two points in that video – it’s that forehand get that ended the first set and that “neo backhand” from the second.

Krajinovic seemed to get more and more nervous and at some point, it was like if he just wanted to get out of there as fast as possible. Roger Federer served out the match to love to win 6-2, 6-1 in just 59 minutes.

Perhaps the best match Federer has played this year, at least in terms of sheer playing level because obviously, the dramaturgy wasn’t really there. Krajinovic was so good in patches but it didn’t suffice against the world no.1 who just seemed relaxed almost from the get-go. Also, it should be noted that Federer’s performance was so much better than against Delbonis and it’s a really scary thing for his future opponents. The Swiss used to have some troubles with Jeremy Chardy, he even lost to him in a tight three-setter (wasted a match point) at the 2014 Italian Open. However, the best days of the Frenchman are already long gone and this time he shouldn’t present that much danger to the world no.1.