Roger Federer is through to the Rome SFs after defeating the seriously dangerous Jerzy Janowicz, 6-4, 7-6(7-2) in 1 hour and 25 minutes. The two men played aggressive, first-strike tennis; both had more winners than errors. Janowicz’s booming serves averaging around 220 km/h gave him comfortable service matches for the most part, except for one break point opportunity he offered at 4*-5 in the first set. Roger took it immediately and that was all that was needed to close it out in 36 minutes. The second set started ominously however as Roger was broken right away. It was the only bad service game of the match from FedEx which was an anomaly because otherwise Federer’s serve stats were very very good and he wasn’t broken again. But Janowicz was serving brilliantly too and Roger couldn’t break him until he was serving for the second set at 5*-4. Despite having set point, Jerzy committed errors and two double faults; combine that with some fantastic shot-making from Roger, and Jerzy got broken on the 3rd break point to bring it back on serve at 5 all. Roger had 3 match points on Jerzy’s service game but he saved them all to hold steady at 6 all leading to a tie break. Though Jerzy got a mini break right away, Roger took it back and went up a break to lead 2*-1; he got another break to get to 5*-2 before serving out the match.
In addition to Roger’s fantastic serving all throughout the match, his winner to unforced errors were also impressive at 26-13. They both hit great shots with Jerzy’s trademark drop-shots to Roger’s forehands and backhands pulling Jerzy from corner to corner. However, what stood out for me today about Roger weren’t his shot-making skills; it was his temperament. For the most part it seemed near impossible to break Jerzy. He was hammering out serves as high as 233 km/h. And yet Roger continued to be patient while constantly pushing and looking for chances. He was positive and aggressive in his approach despite Jerzy playing the way he was. He stayed close to the baseline, took necessary risks and pounced when he sniffed an opening. I was fully prepared for the match going to a third set but the Maestro displayed complete nerves of steel when he finally broke Jerzy with him at set point. Roger seemed to have unshakable belief and a quiet confidence in himself and there was no hesitation in executing his game-plan. In the end, he did everything a little better – more accurate serving, more consistency, more sustained aggression, and unparalleled mentality and focus. It’s that extra something that champions have, especially when they need it most.
He will now face the rising French star, Benoit Paire. Their H2H is 2-0 from Basel last year and the Australian Open this year; Roger won both in straight sets. But those matches were on hard courts and more importantly, Paire has improved leaps and bounds since then, so Roger will be right to be wary of him. It will not be like their previous matches. It will be a better, calmer, craftier Benoit and Roger will do well to think of him as a new player rather than the one in Basel. I think this match will be tougher than some are thinking and Federer shouldn’t take his foot of the gas. Paire has also had more time to recuperate from his early, very quick QF compared to Roger whose match ended past midnight. But hopefully, Benoit has had enough big wins for one tourney and Roger can convert his chances quickly and efficiently. We shall see how this all pans out soon enough… till then just keep repeating “Allez Caramel!”