As you all must know by now since it’s been over 24 hours, Roger Federer is through to the Round of 16 at the Australian Open. He defeated Teymuraz Gabashvili in straight sets, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 in 1 hour and 41 minutes.
The match started somewhat ominously for Roger as he immediately provided 2 break points. He saved them and held and then for the most part, there were no significant problems. Gabashvili started well too, at one point early on, he was hitting more winners than Roger. Roger meanwhile began to look comfortable and held his second game to 15 and third game to love with three beautiful forehand winners and kept building pressure on the Russian. Sure enough, when serving at 2*-3, three unforced errors gave the Maestro three break point opportunities. Gabashvili saved one but then double-faulted on the 2nd to give Roger the break. Serving to consolidate at 4*-2, Roger got into a bit of trouble with a few errors and some winners from Teymuraz. He gave the Russian a third break point opportunity of the set. However, his serve came to the rescue just in time and he held to go up 5-2*. Gabashvili was 40-15 up in his service game when 3 errors gave the Maestro his first set point. The Russian saved that one but Roger got the opportunity back with a gorgeous forehand winner. Gabashvili netted the next point giving the set to Federer, 6-2 in 33 minutes.
Set two and while Gabashvili pushed him, he held on and the score was 1-0*. Gabashvili then had a very difficult service game as Roger got two break point opportunities, one via a double fault. Nonetheless, after being pushed to deuce 4 times, the Russian held and it was 1 all. After a quick hold to go up 2-1* the same story repeated again. Roger got two more break point opportunities but couldn’t convert. After 3 deuces Teymuraz held to 2 all. Yet another quick hold for the Swiss and looking back at the stats of each set, Roger clearly served the best in this second set with 76% of his first serves going in. In the very next game, though Gabashvili was up 40-30 he soon found himself staring at a break point. A failed volley gave the Swiss the break and Roger was up 4*-2. In the blink of an eye Roger got the score line to 5-2* and Teymuraz had to serve to stay in the set. Maybe the Russian’s spirit was already broken by then; he barely offered resistance and gave Roger two set points. A short rally followed by an error from Teymuraz gave the Swiss the second set 6-2 in 39 minutes.
Set three and yet again, there was a blip in Roger’s concentration as he was quickly down 2 break points at 15-40. Two errors from Gabashvili and two strong serves got Roger out of the hole and he held 1-0*. Gabashvili showed renewed energy perhaps because it was now or never; he held to love to level the score at 1 all. Roger held more comfortably in the next game and pounced in the Russian’s next service game extracting errors to have 3 break points. Gabashvili saved two but Roger grabbed the third and the score was 3*-1. Then, to add insult to injury, Roger consolidated the break with a love hold of his own. Teymuraz held on for his next games despite being constantly pushed by the Maestro and even saving a break point in the process to keep the difference to just one break in this set. At 5*-3 Roger served for the match and he showed no nerves as he served it out to love. Here are the match stats.Roger’s serve held up quite well for the most part. Though a few more first serves in would have been nice (he had 62%), he served with more consistency than in his Round 1 match. His serves weren’t as sublime as the previous match but that makes sense because that was in indoor conditions where no elements can disturb his line. It was actually quite windy at the Rod Laver Arena during this third round match. He also returned well too and kept his winners to unforced errors ratio nicely positive. His backhand down the line was on song throughout the match which was just gorgeous to see. The only significant dip in his stats was his net points. He missed a few volleys which was strange considering how well he had been placing them in the first few matches.
Nonetheless, given that he found this match tricky, I think it was a solid effort. He didn’t expend too much energy out there either. He has now spent a total of 5 hours and 14 minutes on court and hasn’t dropped a set. Here is the presser and here is the presser clip. Here is the on-court interview with Jim Courier who I was especially pleased to see! I love their interviews! A bonus clip here of Roger’s post-match ESPN interview too 🙂
All this bodes well for his next match which is bound to test him to the limit and then some. He faces Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the next round. There are no secrets here. They have played each other 13 times with the H2H of 9-4 in Roger’s favour. I would say based on the form Jo has shown so far in this Australian Open, after Andy, Rafa and Novak, he is the strongest player left in the draw with Tomas close behind him. He isn’t in awe of Roger and has defeated him at multiple Slams including their last meeting at the French Open in 2013.
Of all the 8 Round of 16 matches on the schedule, this is by far the toughest. Jo is serving very well at the moment and similar to Roger he too likes to play aggressively. Roger will need unbelievable defense and grab break points when he gets them for Jo won’t offer that many to spare. I really don’t know what will happen but I do know I will probably forget to breathe a few times. Here’s hoping the Maestro can rise to the occasion.
Before I conclude, I wanted to highlight some amazing records the Maestro has set so far just with these three wins.
• With his first round match, he set the record for participating in the highest number of consecutive Grand Slams. This is his 57th Grand Slam in a row.
• With his second round match win, he set the record for the only player (male or female) to ever win 70 matches at the Australian Open.
• With his third round match, he went past Agassi and is into 4th place on most number of career matches played with 1,145 matches.
• With his third round win, he is now tied at 3rd place with Vilas for most number of career matches won with 929 wins.
His humble, friendly attitude, youthful exuberance and general dorkiness can make you forget how legendary this man is. Every time he steps foot on the tennis court, he creates history. Consider yourselves lucky you are here to witness it. I sure as hell do, every single day. C’mon Roger!
*Photos from Zimbio.com*