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Federer fights his way into the final 4 – for the 10th time in a row

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http://www.foxsports.com.au/tennis/majors/roger-federer-staves-off-strong-challenge-from-jo-wilfried-tsonga-to-book-australian-open-semi-final/story-e6frf4nc-1226560421123#.UQCt-lZwFnIAfter winning his Round 4 match, Roger Federer said it would be an interesting challenge playing 7 5-setters in 2 weeks. Well the tennis gods heard him because they granted his wish last night. Given Roger’s form coming into the match I had predicted the Swiss would win it in 3 maybe 4 tight sets. I was wrong because he won it in 5. And there were two simple reasons why that happened.  First, Roger’s form of the past 4 matches didn’t hold and second, Tsonga clearly had done his homework, came up with a different strategy and brought his A-game.

Now obviously Roger’s form faltering was partly due to Jo-Willie himself. Till last night the Maestro had faced off against players ranked in 46, 40, 43 and 15. While they were significantly more formidable than the opponents his fellow top 3 faced, they were not the top 10 men in tennis. Federer’s preparation going into the Australian Open was to practice and not play any warm up tournaments. Meaning he hadn’t played in Doha, Abu Dhabi, the Hopman Cup, Chennai, Sydney or Kooyong  to get some experience against his fellow superstars of the ATP. He had played Tsonga and Delpo in the South American exhibition last year but even that was over a month ago.

In the meantime, it was clear that with a new coach, http://www.australianopen.com/en_AU/news/galleries/2013-01-23/201301231358935040297.htmlTsonga had made tweaks to his game and tactics. To start with Jo served well as he usually does. He approached the net often which he is also comfortable with. What he has improved are his speed and court coverage (perhaps a direct result of shedding some weight in the off-season?) and his returns. As Federer himself said in the post-match interview, he hit some great serves in the range of 205-210 km and Jo kept putting them all back in play. He played aggressively; testing Roger’s defensive skills and making FedEx create extra shots with acute angles.

For Roger, his first serve in particular let him down, especially in the first set; he only got 55% of them in. He double faulted in each of the first 3 sets and hit only 6 aces compared to Tsonga’s 20. For the first time this tournament Roger’s serve was broken and he also conceded two sets (he hadn’t dropped a set till this match). His break point conversion was back to a miserable 22%. Not all of it was bad though. He won more points at the net which is not a surprise. What is interesting is, despite having serving issues he led Tsonga on points won off both first and second serves. And while Tsonga had more winners, he had more errors too, tipping the final count in Federer’s favour; Federer won a total of 169 points to Tsonga’s 164. It was also crucial that Federer won both tie-breaks. Somehow when it was clutch time, the Swiss found his inner champion and pounced to take those sets. Here are the stats.
AOQF
The match was topsy turvy from the start. Given the dip in Roger’s performance and Tsonga in scintillating form, the two were very evenly matched. For a change, Roger faced a player who is as quick between points as he is. I personally am a fan of less time in between points, not just from a fan’s point of view but the players as well; I think it’s easier to maintain concentration and rhythm, but that’s just my personal opinion. Regardless, the fact that neither player took much time showed in the stats. Despite being a 5-setter with 2 sets ending in tie-break, the total match time was 3 hours and 34 minutes.  The roller-coaster ride they took us in was evident from the scores with Roger taking sets 1, 3, and 5 and Tsonga taking 2 and 4. Federer won, 7-6(7-4), 4-6, 7-6(7-4), 3-6, 6-3.

http://www.australianopen.com/en_AU/news/galleries/2013-01-23/201301231358935040297.htmlIn Paul Annacone’s interview he mentioned that Roger can play a lot of different styles of tennis at a very high level. As the sport has become more homogenized, his diversity and ability to adapt and adjust allows him to bring additional skills to the court that many others don’t have and have trouble playing against. Against Tsonga, a man who has played him 11 times already, he had to bring out the entire armory of shots at his disposal, especially since his first serve was failing him. But I believe it wasn’t just his tennis skills that saved the night. In the end he dug deep into the reserves of his extensive experience, grit, determination and self-belief. He got broken much more than he broke back but he stayed calm, focused, cool and collected from beginning to end.

I did have a sneaky feeling though, that when they headed into the 5th, Federer would pull this one out of the fire. This is what separates the top 4 men from the rest of the top 10, 50, 100. 5-setters need that additional something to get over the finish line, that extra bit of concentration and a 6th gear to take it up a notch. So when he broke Jo to go up 3-1 I had an inkling that the match might turn for the Swiss. Despite Tsonga’s attention waning, and Roger getting into the zone, the Frenchman fought valiantly against both Federer and himself to get the score to 5-3 saving 4 match points. But finally, the Maestro had the 5th match point on his own racket and he finished it off at the net with a smash. Game, set, match, Federer.

The two shared a warm embrace at the net and looking at the pictures one wouldn’t know who won. I think especially after the South America Exhibitions, they’ve gotten closer and the net hug was with genuine affection. Showing true class Federer style, he waited for Tsonga to pack his bags before walking out together, chatting and smiling. He gave yet another glorious interview to Jim Courier before signing the camera and waving goodbye, leaving his fans exhausted but happy.

“Fedonga” bromance continues across oceans from South America to Australia

“Fedonga” bromance continues across oceans from South America to Australia

Next up is Andy Murray, who is yet to be tested. His draw turned out to be a bit of a joke in the end. Whether this means he is fresh and ready to slice and dice Roger in straight sets remains to be seen. It also depends on Roger’s recovery and if he can find his first serves again. He’ll need them against Murray, one of the few active players with a positive H2H against him. For now though he can relax, and enjoy the fact that he just reached his 10th consecutive Australian Open SF and his 33rd Grand Slam SF – both obviously new records, breaking the ones he set himself.

When I saw his draw 13 days ago I said “Reaching the SFs will be a bonus and reaching the final will be icing on the cake. If he actually wins it will be the stuff tennis lore is made of.” I still stand by my statement. I am already very happy with Roger’s progress so far, but I obviously want him to do well and go deep in the tournament. We’ll just have to wait and see and hopefully get to see some great tennis from the Maestro while we’re at it. Allez Federer!

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9 thoughts on “Federer fights his way into the final 4 – for the 10th time in a row

  1. It’s amazing in how little time, your posts have become part of my tennis life 🙂 Really nice to read every time you have a new one!
    In all honesty: I can’t really comment on the match. I have seen it in bits. First one and half set at home. Then followed it on Twitter (that is really nerve wrecking btw!) and then saw a replay up until set 5, when the recording suddenly stopped! Don’t know what happened… A real shame, cause Fed was back in the zone in set 5 and I think I would have thoroughly enjoyed that. But hey, it is what it is… I actually thought the match, the things I did see, was one with ups and downs. If you watch it again, you can enjoy the ups much more. Just like we were talking about on Twitter. And there were actually quite a few ups too. I could suddenly understand better, why he said at the presser “I think I played well” (or words to that extent). Cause at times, he really did. And… granted: Jo played a great match most of the time. I think he has improved overall and in exactly those areas that you mentioned… As Fed said ‘he is a dangerous player who will unfortunately beat us in the future’…

    On a side note: loved the ‘pretend to smash Rog with a racket moment’. Made me, of course, think of the exho’s. And therefore loved your little collage even more! The expression on *both* their faces tells you a lot. And the fact that Jo put up a pic of the 2 of them on his fb only a few hours after the match, said it all for me in the end. The on court interview was absolutely brilliant. Every time JC is out there with him, I think ‘well, it can’t be better than the last time” and it is, every time… Love Mirka’s face too, when she looks so amused, when he is being giggly and making jokes…

    Bút… back to tennis: if he gets his 1st serve % up again, up his bp conversion rate a little bit and takes the 1st set, I think he has the biggest chance of winning. Would he not be able to do so, for whatever reason, it might be an even tougher battle. He predicted it will be close and I’m preparing myself for that. Both of them have advantages and disadvantages for their match. Fed had a little less time to rest, his last match was much longer; Murray hasn’t been tested yet, probably might do better in the evening then during the day… From what I’ve seen though, Murray hasn’t been really consistent this AO. At least, that’s what I think. That might be good, we’ll see. Fed’s only inconsistency was during the last match, but I have seldom seen him play two inconsistent matches in a row over the years, so I have good hopes. And besides all that: I have decided to try and stay cool and collective, like Fed 😉 And think about winning and losing like he does… I hope I can 😉

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    • I LOVE your comments, they’re now a part of MY tennis life and this blog! So thank you SO much for the dialogue! It motivates me to write more! :D. First the tennis comments, agree with you on all counts. I can’t call the match actually, I don’t know what form Roger will bring and how he’s recovered from last night. And I think even Murray doesn’t know how he’ll perform given how his draw has been so far. I mean look at what happened to Sharapova today and she was more consistent than Andy has been. *sigh*

      I think I’ll stay away from twitter mostly, in the last match I started getting dizzy and nauseous till I stepped away from the laptop, took a deep breathe and just put my blind faith in Federer one excruciating point at a time. I do hope, even if he loses, that he’ll go down fighting. Today I wished more than ever that his draw had been different. No offense to Ferrer but he’s never defeated Roger so to have that semi would’ve been just perfect. He’s gotten no breaks due to Rafa’s absence. Novak keeps getting Ferrer instead while he gets Andy of course. Ah well, we’ll see what happens in about 11 hours!

      As for Fedonga 🙂 I loved that pretend smash bit too! It definitely carried over from SA though all things considered Tsonga was 4-1 down 5th set! Yet they found a way to smile and yes that fb cover photo says it all. It’s still there! and the JC interviews are priceless! and like you say, they just keep getting better. Just for that, Roger should win tomorrow, so we can see JC’s last interview this AO (since they don’t happen in the Finals the same way).

      Fingers crossed for the Maestro! Like you said, we should follow the Fed way to handle these situations. And once again THANK YOU for reading and for your comments! You’re the best! 🙂

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  2. Aww that really made me smile (all of it actually) 🙂 One reaction before I go off to bed as well: I might stay away from Twitter mostly too… I like the ‘being together but yet alone while watching bit’ most of the time, but sometimes the negativity (when things are not going well) gets to me a bit… And I don’t want to feel that way when I watch Fed. I don’t mind being worried or nervous, but I don’t want to be negative… And it’s not at all meant badly towards people, everyone has his or her own way of expressing things but I thought about it Wednesday and I might try that tomorrow (but I might change my mind and stay, will see how I feel)… But I thought I’d say that I think I understand what you mean. But maybe it all sounds strange and you think ‘what’s she talking about?’ 😉 But somehowI have a feeling you know what I mean…

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    • I completely understand and know what you mean 🙂 Like you said, I love being a part of the Federer Family watching together on twitter but when people start getting negative it’s hard to handle. I’ll be logged on but will only check in between sets perhaps. Only 55 minutes to go and I’m already getting too nervous! 😦 *Breathe in, breathe out, and keep faith in Roger*. Here’s hoping we see a happy JC interview at the end! Allez!

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  3. I feel like also being logged on, but leave my laptop alone for the most part. Just like to go and see him play. And if it were not too work out and Andy wins, I hope it’ll be a great match and he played amazing, so we had at least that. But I think the H2H might change to 10-10 today. He played só well in London against Andy and reads him better these days I think… Only time will tell. And I’m still thinking about Rog and his way of looking at losses and am determined to see the good bits first today… So far, that helps… Let’s see if it still does in 37 mins time! Allez!

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  4. Because of our talks here, I was thinking how you were today during the match and after… Hope you are a bit better than right after the match. Honestly think he gave it all and he played a lót better than in the match against Tsonga. It just wasn’t meant to be today… Andy played well, served incredibly well and was just, as Fed said, a bit better today… And if that happens at the crucial moments… Anyway. Will go and see the last bit of the 4th set later. Will prob leave the 5th set for what it is. I’ve already seen match point. And will try and find that insane shot during the 1st TB that got him onto setpoint. I lóved that one. Só good.

    Just a little post-match comment… Proud of him, I am 🙂 #Fedlove forever

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    • Thank you for asking! Hope you’re hanging in there! Actually I was kind of numb after the match, once he got broken in the 5th set, I became just blank. Did you know that this was the first time he was playing two 5-setters back to back? I think it definitely took a toll on him. That plus his serves, both first and second, which vanished like magic for the entire match duration. Towards the end of the 5th set he lost focus and got broken and after that he just didn’t have the stamina. But what I am proud of is how he fought back valiantly. This wasn’t like in the Olympics or Shanghai last year. Roger gave it his all and more and perhaps that’s why I am not as devastated. It’s the start of the season after all… hopefully he can go and relax and reboot his body for Rotterdam in 2.5 weeks. Looking forward to a new tournament with a smiley Federer! Allez Roger!

      Oh and I thought the JC interview was boring as hell. Neither he nor Murray seemed to be enjoying it. So sad we didn’t get another one with Fed! *sigh*

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  5. I’m okayish… Still bit down about it all, but yet I’m not at the same time. Very strange actually. Maybe that is exactly for the reasons you said, he gave it his all (and that helps) and it just wasn’t meant to be today. That’s my feeling about it. And I am still thinking about Fed and how he looks at these things. It still works to a degree…
    My active knowledge of statistics is not that good tbh, so didn’t know about the 2 5-setters b2b. That’d take a toll on a lot of players I’d say! I think his serve was better than during the Tsonga match, but maybe the stats will prove me wrong. I know that during the Tsonga match I had more moments when I thought ‘noo… what are you doing, what’s going on’ and I didn’t have that as much today… but today I think the main thing was for some reason it didn’t get going, if you see what I mean. And what I think, that it was different for him mentally today. Easier irritated, the outburst, the discussion with the ump… That for me was the key why it didn’t really work out. And he did say something about the Tsonga match still had an effect on him for a little bit, but added immediately that shouldn’t be used as an excuse cause Andy just played better. Real Fed-like, I thought that was. He goes off to rest and practice til Rotterdam no doubt and will get his act back together I think. I had the utmost respect for him sitting at the presser. Nobody does that like him. Now all I hope is that the negativity that I have been seeing around here and there flows away soon. Last year he got to the semis, played a 3 setter and lost. You don’t hear people about that… And anyone who says something about the age thing, I will probably hit (virtually) 😉

    Anyway. Off to bed soon… Not long til Rotterdam. Can’t wait!

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