Roger Federer enters this March's BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif. as the No. 2-seeded player in the men's draw and a favorite to win his fifth career title at the annual Masters 1000 event.
If that sounds familiar, it should. Arguably the greatest tennis player of all time, Fed holds the record for most singles championships at Indian Wells, winning there in 2012 to surpass Jimmy Connors and Michael Chang.
With first-round play set to begin on Thursday at Indian Wells Tennis Garden, it's time we break down Fed's keys to victory.
Great players always hold serve, and the best win on their first serve. To start the 2013 season, Roger Federer has been doing just that, winning 79 percent of his first-serve points.
The result: Fed has won 90 percent of his service games this season.
He'll need to continue that high rate at Indian Wells this March is he's going to upend the likes of Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal on his way to a title. Those players are all fantastic on serve, so Fed must increase his room for error by dominating with powerful, accurate first serves.
It's key that Fed use one of the sport's all-time great serves to keep his opponents at bay and to help neutralize some of his opponents' athletic advantages.
Second-Serve Return Points
It's always nice to hear your opponent's first serve called out by the referee, especially when it's coming at you with pace and all sorts of awkward rotation. Odds are the second serve will be a whole lot easier to handle, therefore making the point easier to win.
It's Tennis 101. But that doesn't make it any less important to win those valuable second-serve return points.
So far this season, Fed is winning about 51 percent of his second-serve return points. That's certainly not a mark to sneeze at, but it could be better and will need to be better if Fed is going to raise the trophy at Indian Wells for a second straight year in 2013.
Converting Break Points
Fed is only converting on about a third of his break-point chances this season, 34 percent to be exact. He'll need to boost that average in Indian Wells in order to reach the semis and beyond.
Consider this: Murray is converting 52 percent of his break-point chances in 2013, Djokovic is making good on 47 percent of his and Nadal is cashing in on 46 percent of his break-point opportunities.
Clearly, Federer is way behind in this area and has some serious catching up to do if he's going to challenge the other Big Four members.
These three keys are important for any tennis player at any tournament to have success. But in Federer's case, they are absolutely vital to winning a fifth career title at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.
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