Roger Federer used variety and old-fashioned consistency to avoid the upset bug on Tuesday evening at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.
The five-time champion continued his dominance against friend and compatriot Stan Wawrinka, advancing 6-3, 6-4 to beat Stan The Man for the sixth consecutive time and the 22nd in their ATP Head2Head series (22-3).
“I think I felt good from the beginning,” said Federer. “The breeze picked up a little bit for the evening, I thought, but I didn't feel like it had that much of a play in it. I think for me the plan worked. I was able to mix up my game, cover my serve, be dangerous on the return. Maybe take some rhythm away from Stan, like I always try to do, but you can't always make it work.”
Federer has won all 17 of their hard-court matchups, including four in Indian Wells. After their meeting in the 2017 BNP Paribas Open final, Wawrinka, holding back tears, memorably called Federer an “***hole” when he caught his friend laughing at his struggle.
“When asked about Wawrinka’s form, Federer admitted, “I think he's right there. I think maybe all he's maybe missing is match play, a higher ranking, so he can get some better seeding [and] he doesn't have to face the toughest guy early on in tournaments."
But it was all rather serious for the Swiss rivals in Stadium 1. Federer controlled the baseline rallies, forcing Wawrinka to match his groundstroke depth and speed. At 2-3, Wawrinka tossed in a forgettable game and handed Federer the break to love with a shanked forehand.
The 37-year-old closed out the set with a point that surely made two-time champion Pete Sampras, in attendance in the Champions Club once more, crack a smile. Federer served and volleyed to wrap up the 28-minute set.
The last time they met on hard court, at the ATP Masters 1000 in Cincinnati last August, Wawrinka pushed Federer to three sets. But Federer kept Tuesday evening compact, mixing in drop shots mid-rally that left Wawrinka scrambling and a step short.
“It's always a thrill playing in Indian Wells,” Federer said.
Earlier in Stadium 1, five-time champion Novak Djokovic fell to Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-4, 6-4, so the title of all-time Indian Wells champion is Federer's to gain outright in the desert. He will next meet Brit Kyle Edmund for the first time.
Looking ahead to his match against Edmund on Wednesday, Federer said, “I have never played him, and so that's exciting, especially an established player… I think he's a really nice guy. Trains hard. He's got good balance. Very similar backhand to [Andy] Murray in some ways, also, by the technique of it. And the forehand really goes. He's got some major power there. He can also serve big in the first serve.”
Edmund routed Delray Beach champion Radu Albot 6-3, 6-3. The 22nd seed has won all four sets this week and captured the ATP Challenger Tour event in Indian Wells on 3 March.