Roger Federer won his 70th Australian Open match which is a record, although he held the honour of having the highest number of wins at this Slam for a while now. The 70 is just a nice number to celebrate 🙂 Serena Williams is next closest with 61 wins so far. This was also his first match on Hisense Arena (and not on Rod Laver Arena) in 10 years. Last time he played there was in 2004. This is a result of his seeding, plus his non-Aussie opponent, plus the fact that the draw on his half is much heavier than the other. Regardless, we all know what happened in 2004 at the Australian Open so maybe this is a good omen 😉
With this win he also reached Round 3 for the 15th straight year. To reach this milestone he defeated Blaz Kavcic, 6-2, 6-1, 7-6(7-4) in 1 hour and 47 minutes. But actually, that match time doesn’t describe the story accurately. Roger took a total of 54 minutes for the first 2 sets and then 53 for the third. I think that breakdown tells you a bit more of how the match went. Meaning he was vintage Roger in the first two sets, and not-so vintage in the third.
Roger won the toss, elected to receive and broke Kavcic right away. From the first game on he was very aggressive, approaching the net often. He consolidated just as quickly with great serving and volleys everywhere. Blaz finally got on board the next game to keep the break to just one. Blaz got one point in Roger’s next game through a double fault. Other than that, an ace, a service winner and two more volleys took the score to 3-1*. In Blaz’s net game he offered the Swiss 2 break point opportunities. He saved the first but failed to save the second and was down a double break 1-4*. Another hold by Roger and Blaz was left to serve to stay in the set. Blaz saved a break point and got pushed to deuce twice but held. Roger served it out with two aces to take the set 6-2.
Onto set 2, and despite fighting hard, ultimately Blaz got broken in the opening game. Federer consolidated quickly dropping just one point. In Blaz’s next service game he seemed to be a prop while Roger put on an exhibition. He could only look in awe as he got broken yet again to go down 0-3*. Then a strange blip of concentration happened and a few errors gave Kavcic 3 break points. Roger saved 2, the second with this crazy point which left Blaz laughing. But he couldn’t save the third and out of nowhere Blaz had broken Federer. Perhaps he was still trying to process what he just accomplished because while he was in a daze the Swiss had three break point opportunities on his own serve. But Roger needed only 1 and the double break was back. Spurred on, Roger held to love in under a minute with 2 aces and 2 service winners and left Blaz to serve to stay in the set, down 1*-5. Roger kept pushing him, got him to deuce and then had a set point on Blaz’s serve. A forehand volley winner gave Roger the second set 6-1, in 28 minutes.
The third set started well for Roger. Despite being pushed in his opening game, Roger hit three aces to hold, 1-0*. But it was clear that Blaz was determined to give it one last go, he had nothing to lose and as a result he started to get settled in and began to serve and return better. He held quite comfortably to get to 1 all and the same continued at 2 all. In Blaz’s third service game, Roger pushed him but then also committed some unforced errors and allowed the Slovenian to hold 3 all. The errors from the Swiss continued as Roger was then pushed to deuce in his next service game; two big serves allowed him to hold. By then Blaz had begun to get into the match and held comfortably to get up to 4 all. Serving at 4*-5 Blaz was pushed again by Roger and yet again, 3 unforced errors from the Swiss allowed Blaz to go up 5 all. Another love hold by Roger and a Blaz hold with a few Federer errors and we were at 6 all and headed to a tie-break.
Blaz got the mini break right away and was up 0-3. Roger held on and got the mini break back to be at 3 all when they changed ends. The Swiss got a mini break of his own as he went up 4*-3. He held to go up 5*-3 but then gave the mini break back to Blaz at 5-4*. Blaz found the net at the end of the rally of his serve and was down a mini break again, 4*-6 and Roger had match point on Kavcic’s serve. Blaz served, an intense rally followed with some pretty points till finally Roger hit a winning volley and game, set, match Federer. Here are the match stats.Roger was aggressive all throughout. He found precision and power in the first two sets and with Blaz looking like a stunned deer at times, the Maestro began to experiment. In the third set Blaz shook himself out of it and reminded us he could really play. Meanwhile, Roger lost a bit of concentration and looked frustrated in that set. He was at times overly aggressive and looked to be rushing things. But I am hoping he did this consciously, that he knew he was 2 sets up and was confident enough he would win and kept up his aggressive approach knowing it might generate errors. I think it was a combination of both Blaz picking it up and Roger being a bit off that led to the close finish.
Here’s the transcript of the presser and here is the video clip where he speaks about his aggressive play. I’ll also include three more clips: Here is a very tiny highlights clip, here is another post match interview and here is a nice video clip on ‘Expectations’.
Overall I think this was a very good match from Roger. The roof was closed and Roger made optimal use of the indoor conditions. He served much better this match than in Round 1 with no double faults, 76% of first serves in and winning 78% of them. Roger also volleyed brilliantly and no, Edberg didn’t suddenly teach him all that in 3 days you media ‘pundits’. The Maestro has known how to volley since forever. I think Edberg probably helped him to narrow down a general plan of attack and aggression. Plus it also matters who the opponent is and what plan works against him on match day.
I am happy with Roger’s game so far and looking forward to his Round 3 clash with Gabashvili. Gabashvili is ranked 79 and defeated Verdasco in 5 sets to get the chance to play in Round 3. Federer has a 1-0 H2H with him. But that was a long time ago, back in 2007 in Wimbledon, so it doesn’t provide much information. Roger is back at the Rod Laver Arena for his next match and they will meet in the second match of the Day session tomorrow, i.e. Saturday at around 12:30pm local time. The temperature will drastically drop tomorrow so the conditions will be much more different than the previous two matches. No speculations on my part. I just hope he goes out there and does his best. Good luck champ! Allez!
*Photos from the Australian Open site and Zimbio.com*