I’m not quite sure how to begin as I’m still breathless from that roller-coaster of a match. I’ll mention the result right now so you aren’t kept waiting. Roger Federer defeated Tommy Haas in 3 sets, 1-6, 7-5, 6-3. He will face Rafa Nadal in the QF. Yes another Fedal QF, the second one this year, with the first being at Indian Wells in March.
But back to the match we just witnessed, yes you read the scores correctly, Haas breadsticked Federer in the 1st set. Both men held their first games but then Roger completely unraveled. Almost every shot seemed to go wide or long or found the net. He served poorly and won only 48% of the points on his first serves and returned even worse. The Maestro had 10 winners to 14 unforced errors, converted none of his 3 break points and won only 4 out of 11 net points. I actually didn’t see any issues with his movement or any signs that he had back problems. It was a case of Roger playing bad tennis and we were left scratching our heads wondering where’s the Fed we know and love. A part of me was thinking maybe he needed time to get reacquainted with his old racquet because some of those misses were awful. What was worse was Tommy wasn’t all that brilliant himself and yet there he was, sitting pretty at 6-1. I am attaching the first set stats here so you can compare it to the match stats later on because the change was remarkable.Onto set 2 and the misery seemed to continue for Roger (and us). Roger got broken in his second service game. A set and a break down, plus given his recent history, I think most of us thought the writing was on the wall especially since Tommy picked up his level too. But then out of nowhere, Roger held to love with a wonderful rally on game point to get the score to 3*-2. He was down a break still but I think that love hold game was the turning point of the match. He seemed more focused and confident and though Tommy held his next game to go up 4-2*, I’m sure even he knew that he was now facing a different Fed, one who has defeated him 11 times in his career already. And wouldn’t you know it, after holding to get the score to 3-4* he broke Tommy to level the scores. He then consolidated to go up 5-4* saving a break point in the process. Tommy was feeling the pressure, screaming in frustration and gave Roger 2 set points but then saved them both and it was 5 all. After another good service hold from Roger I mentally prepared myself to get ready for a hellish tie-break. Yet within a few minutes Roger had 2 set points again. He missed the first but took it on the second 7-5 with a fantastic rally and boom! We were 1 set all!
Here are the stats. His first serve points picked up nicely in this set and he had 6 aces. His net play worked much better too, he won 11 of 17 of them. He also had 19 winners and 12 unforced errors. As the set ended, the crowd erupted in euphoria. Tommy smacked a ball in the stands and threw his racquet in frustration. He received a code violation and yelled some more at the umpire and we saw Roger quietly smile at all the drama as he sauntered back to his chair looking like he was heading off to a tea party rather than a deciding set.Roger opened the 3rd set with a beautiful love hold. Tommy kept up the pace to with a love hold as well. In Tommy’s second service game he offered 2 break points but saved them both to stay on serve at 2 all. As if to follow suit, Roger’s next service game got sticky as well and he too offered 2 break points, the second one with a double fault but steadied the ship and won the game with an ace. The set continued on serve till Tommy’s 4th service game. Tommy only got one point before the Maestro had 2 break points. He needed only one and broke Haas to go up 5*-3. Serving for the match, Roger tightened up a bit and I got a bit worried because he hasn’t been great at closing matches out in these situations this year. He committed another double fault to level the scores at 30 all but then avoided further hiccups and won the game and the set 6-3.
The match took 1 hour and 52 minutes. Roger won 21 of a staggering 35 times at the net which is unheard of these days. He had 39 unforced errors but had 43 winners. Actually Tommy had 32 winners and 32 unforced errors and in the end Roger won 97 points to Tommy’s 96. Those stats show how aggressive this match was. None of this passive defensive baseline play we see everywhere else. While watching the match I was so tense I didn’t fully appreciate the beautiful shots hit by both until I watched the match again while writing this post. I also have a weakness for single handed backhands and these two are some of the best in the business when it comes to that shot so I might be biased ;). Here are the match stats.The win sets up the 31st meeting for Roger vs. Rafa. Nothing much to say here, they have no secrets from each other. Rafa is in ridiculously fine form and Roger has had a miserable season so far. But my takeaways from this Tommy match were positive not just because of the win but how Roger won it. He dug himself out of a deep hole, took control of the rallies, the games and then the match itself. He kept cool, calm and yet focused and aggressive. Tommy didn’t just implode on his own, Roger pushed him to it. This win says a lot about Roger’s mentality and he will have good confidence going into the QF. You can see his interview here.
Almost everybody has written Roger off for this upcoming match and personally for me, after I saw the draw, I thought Roger reaching the QFs would make me happy because I knew both his R2 and R3 matches would be tough. But Roger makes me greedy and when he says “I’m not here to find rhythm, I’m here to win matches” you can’t help but get excited. So despite all evidence to the contrary I will sign off with a fist pump and say Allez Maestro! You can do this!