Roger Federer faced a tougher than expected challenge in Jan Hajek in his R3 match. The Czech player riding high on a wave of confidence after taking out Gulbis yesterday started confidently. Though he got broken by Roger in his third service game, he broke Roger back right away and the two continued on serve in the first set. Roger seemed irritated at himself for failing to consolidate his break and went about the rest of the set with much more intensity. Finally at 5-4*, after squandering 4 set points, he broke Jan to take the first set 6-4.
The second set also continued on serve. Jan struggled more than Roger and finally the Czech got broken on his third service game to go down 2-4*. Roger took a bit of time to consolidate but finally held to go up 5-2*. Serving to stay in the set, Jan provided and ultimately saved not 1, not 2 but 5 match points frustrating Roger to no end. It did galvanize Federer to get it done quickly on his own serve. He started the game with an ace and ended the game with another. Federer won the match 6-4, 6-3 in 1 hour and 11 minutes. Here are the match stats.I have mixed feelings about this match. There were quite a few shanks from Roger which were epic; completely mistiming shots and hitting balls way outside the court. His net play was at times shaky, as if he didn’t have full control over the shot. Of course he wasted 10 out of 13 break points he had and his first serve percentage was only 52%. But that percentage surprised me because in the midst of all those first serves failing, there were 3 love hold games for Roger and 7 aces. For every shank, there was also a crazy beautiful shot. For every volley that hit the net there was a drop shot which gently landed over the net with impossible precision. The shot of the day was in Jan’s last service game when the Maestro leaped backwards turning right and hit a wonderful smash that left me speechless, uttering only unintelligible sounds as I experienced pure genius on display.
To be honest, I think the first match was better. Roger was more consistent against Brands even though he dropped a set. This match was a bit on the wild side and Roger looked visibly annoyed at several points during the match. It was a bag of horrendous errors and gorgeous points, eye-popping winners and unforced errors. Some credit has to go to Jan, he played very well and kept mixing it up. He isn’t afraid to come to the net and at times really made Roger work for it, making the Swiss run all over the court. I think some of the shanks and the missed net points can definitely be attributed to the new racquet. On the other hand I get the feeling he also has more reach and power for his running forehands since he started using the racquet.
What I cannot blame the racquet for however, are those many missed break points. Roger has been having problems closing it out at the key points recently and new racquet or not, that trend continued today. Hopefully he will figure out a way to overcome these big moment issues. He said in the presser that “I can miss 15 or 20 [break points], don’t bother me as long as I win the match.” While that’s good for Roger, the man really puts us all in cardiac arrest with those wasted break points!
At the end of the day what is more important is how he is feeling and whether he has confidence going into the QFs. He will face the German Florian Mayer who is in very good form at the moment. Even though Roger has a 4-0 H2H he will be right to be wary of Florian. This will be a difficult match and I know we’ll be in for a rough ride. But as long as we get a win for our champ at the end, nothing else will matter :). Allez Federer!