There are too many awesome New York songs I could’ve picked from to start my post but I’m resisting the urge so at least allow me to have the title! In any case, we’ll get started with what’s most important; our champ is back in action in NYC! Roger Federer came into the US Open seeded 7, the lowest since Wimbledon 2003. If you didn’t know that information before, I’m sure your commentators reminded you 3746738 times during the match. As we know, Federer is on the same quarter of the draw as Nadal, making it 4 times in a row this year alone for them to meet each other in the QFs; Indian Wells, Wimbledon, Cincinnati and now US Open. (Meanwhile, Murray is yet to play Rafa this year – why do you hate us tennis gods?). But before yet another Fedal QF can happen, both have to get there through 4 rounds. Up first for the Maestro was Slovenian player Grega Zemlja, ranked 62 in the world.
The match was originally scheduled for prime time night session on Day 1 but it got rained out (of course). It got rescheduled to the day session of Day 2 instead. It was quite windy which caused problems for both players. Roger kicked off the proceedings by immediately double faulting to give Zemlja a point but then took the next 4 points and the game in under a minute. He then had 2 break points on Grega’s serve but wasted them both and soon it was 1 all. The first set stayed on serve although while Zemlja had all sorts of problems with the wind and double faulting and quite a few errors, Roger held quickly and efficiently. Roger was very aggressive and was timing his forehand particularly well. He kept pushing Grega and it seemed a matter of time before he would break the Slovenian. Serving to go up to 4 all, Grega could manage only one point before committing 3 errors in a row and getting broken. Roger then held to love for the 3rd time and took the set with an ace in 25 minutes. Here are the stats for set 1.In the second set, Zemlja was under pressure right away. He saved 3 break points but Roger took the 4th and looked to be in total control. Grega’s shots continued to land out or find the net while Roger served and held brilliantly. Grega held for two more games but in his next one he got broken to love, or rather he broke himself with two successive double faults (he had 5 in this set alone) and gave Roger the lead at 2-5*. Roger varied his serves with slice serves, a high kick serve and a bodyline one. Zemlja had no answers for any of them and Roger took the second set 6-2 in 23 minutes. Here are the stats.In the third, Grega picked up his game somewhat and tried to engage in more rallies. They stayed on serve, Roger much more comfortably than Grega. In Grega’s 4th service game he offered Roger 2 break points. Roger converted on the second and it seemed like the writing was on the wall for the Slovenian… or was it? Roger was serving to consolidate his break but lost his concentration, and despite having 2 game points he found himself at deuce and then provided Zemjla’s first beak point of the match. Roger saved that one and the next but on the 3rd after an intense rally the Swiss got broken and we were back on serve.
Roger seemed angry and irritated and barked at the linesperson “what are you looking at?” Clearly the maestro was in a mood. Maybe he was angry with himself for his concentration lapse, or the wind, or because he had rushed trying to finish this but the question was could he calm down quickly and take back control. Meanwhile, buoyed by this new found confidence, Zemlja had a solid service game with 2 aces to go up 5-4* taking a lead on the scores for the first time. But unfortunately for him, the Swiss had calmed down by then. Roger refocused and held to love as if the previous awful service game hadn’t happened. Zemlja’s next service game was crucial and tightly fought till Roger got a break point opportunity at 30-40. For once, Federer converted right away with a gorgeous forehand and wrestled the control of the match back to go up 6*-5. There was some fantastic serving and net play from Roger and soon he had 3 match points. Grega saved one but a Federer forehand volley sealed the deal. Roger won the third set 7-5 in 45 minutes. Here are the stats from the 3rd set.It was a strange match to be quite frank. The wind made it tough and both players tried to be very aggressive. The goal seemed to be to keep the rallies short. Zemlja’s 9 double faults in the match certainly didn’t help him and it was difficult for both of them to find any rhythm. But despite that one blip in the third set I see mostly positives for Roger. He served well overall with 12 aces and provided no break points till that third set, though it would be better if he got more 1st serves in. He had more than double the amount of winners compared to his unforced errors and his forehand in particular was lethal. The stat that stands out to me is the net points won. He came to the net 21 times and won 20 of them. I’m sure we will see this lessen as he comes up against players who return much more effectively but it was great to see that he recognized this tactic would work in this match. He came to the net repeatedly without fear and it was a good opportunity to get some match practice with net points. His movement seemed better to me than the last few tournaments as well. Here are the overall match stats.Interestingly, right after the match he went straight to the practice courts. When asked about why he did so in the press conference he said “Just [for] rhythm. Hardly had any rallies today. Decided to go and just work out some more on the practice courts.” His next opponent will be the Argentinean Carlos Berlocq, ranked 48 in the world. When asked about him, Roger said “We know each others’ game pretty well, so we know what to expect.” You can take a look at the press conference and read the transcript here. It was a long presser and I highly recommend you take a look 😀
Before I end the post here are some Fedtastic stats. By playing this match Roger has now equaled Wayne Ferreira in the record of most consecutive Grand Slams appearances at 56. That’s 14 years of participating in every single Grand Slam continuously. This is also his 58th Grand Slam appearance in total; he is 3rd on the all-time list tied with Lleyton Hewitt and Jonas Bjorkman. He has now won his 911th career match (out of 1,120) and this was his 258th Grand Slam match win (he’s the record holder) and 65th US Open match win, tying him with John McEnroe in 5th place.
Last but not the least I’ll leave you with this clip of the fantastic interview of Roger by his old friend and rival Andy Roddick. And here are Roddick’s afterthoughts on the interview and on Federer. Both clips reminded me how great Andy Roddick was for the sport itself; tennis still hasn’t quite found a replacement. So I’ll end with a shout out to Andy: We miss you and wish you all the best. Hope to see you more in the future!
***Photos from https://twitter.com/usopen