Roger Federer defeated Alexandr Dolgopolov in straight sets to advance to the Indian Wells final. (Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- If you get an opportunity to hit an overhead smash to win a point against Roger Federer, you had better take it. If you don't, he'll make you pay.
That's a lesson Alexandr Dolgopolov learned the hard way in the second set of his 6-3, 6-1 loss to Federer in the semifinals of the BNP Paribas Open on a windy Saturday afternoon.
Dolgopolov got not one but two opportunities to put away Federer at the net with overheads but eased off both -- was it the wind or the nerves? -- to let Federer back into the point. Federer showed off his speed on the first smash, tracking down the soft shot to throw up a backhand lob, then reversed course to cover the cross-court smash. That's precisely where Dolgopolov went and Federer responded by zipping a cross-court forehand pass right past him.
Watch the point below:
In all honesty, Dolgopolov made Federer look very good in this point. The second overhead, in particular, was a weak effort. But the point does illustrate Federer's renewed confidence in his game, and the calm with which he took that forehand pass was good to see. No panic, no pressure, just precision.
"Over the years we have seen a lot of him playing points like that, defending unbelievably," Dolgopolov said. "He's good at it. I knew that, and he made me play a lot of shots, seeing I'm not comfortable with the wind. When you're not comfortable, you don't go for the full power overhead. So I gave him a chance, and he is really good at reading where you hit."
Federer says points like that are all about instinct and less about practice. And, yes, he does surprise himself with some of the stuff he comes up with.
"Certain shots you can't learn, you can't teach," he said. "It's just instinct. You adjust and you just try. Sometimes you get lucky and it looks amazing. Because we are professional tennis players, it feels like we controlled everything, but also sometimes we get lucky in the process. All you have to do is try get to the balls, and for that you have to be fast and anticipate. Then you try to come up with something. It depends how much risk you're willing to take. The more risks you take, the more spectacular it can be."