D'Arcy Maine, ESPNW Writer 377d

Rain or shine, Roger Federer remains flawless in 2018


INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- The only thing rarer than a raindrop in the Southern California desert might be a Roger Federer early-round loss, and thankfully for fans, the weekend brought only one of those anomalies.   

  Federer's opening match at the BNP Paribas Open was suspended for the night Saturday during the second set as pouring rain ended the session prematurely. Less than 24 hours later, he was back on the court, where he finished off Federico Delbonis 6-3, 7-6 (6).

    Despite the straight-sets win, this was nothing short of a complicated couple of days on the court for Federer.

    Don't believe us? Here's what Federer himself had to say about the chain of events:


    We really couldn't put it any better ourselves.

  He was uncharacteristically sloppy -- as in 40 unforced errors sloppy. That's nearly double the winners he had. Afterward, Federer spoke of how differently the courts played between Saturday's night session and Sunday's quicker conditions during a hot afternoon.    

  "When you go from night to day [in consecutive days, you're usually] playing a different opponent," said Federer, who couldn't remember the last time he had played a match that was interrupted overnight. "So naturally, it's all a change. Whereas, here now you play the same guy the next day, so you can really compare, you know, how different conditions are. It was actually quite interesting.  

  "The nighttime is much deader. The surface doesn't react so much; the ball doesn't travel so fast. ... So talking about faster, I just think there is more bounce to it, especially if you play someone who has a lot of spin like he has and kicks the ball around a lot."    

  While Federer was far from perfect, he did improve to an unblemished 13-0 on the year and took the next step in snaring his third title of the young season. Whatever Federer is doing in the offseason, it's working. A year ago, he went on a tear, winning the Australian Open, Indian Wells and Miami -- a stretch that saw him go 20-1. 


  Keep in mind that during his stellar start in 2017, Federer looked beatable at times. In Melbourne alone, he needed to go the five-set distance three times, including the final against Rafael Nadal. In Miami, he nearly fell to Nick Kyrgios in an edge-of-the-seat semifinal battle that went to three tiebreakers.    

It goes without saying Federer's perseverance has been as key to his success as any ace or winner. For the first time in six years, Federer has entered a tournament as the world's No. 1 player.    

So, is there added pressure this time around?  

  "Not really," Federer said during his opening news conference here Thursday. "Just the feeling of getting back to the world No. 1 ranking is deeply gratifying. I know how much work I have put into it, and I know what I had to do to get here."  

  So you can forgive Federer if a few raindrops and overcooked groundstrokes won't deter him moving forward.      

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