Roger Federer is through to his 11th consecutive Australian Open QF! Going against most pundit predictions of the day, the Swiss overcame an in-form Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in straight sets in only 1 hour and 52 minutes.
Roger was extremely aggressive right from the start and except for a few minutes in the third set he never let up. After a confident hold to start the first set he got a break point on Jo’s first service game and wonder of all wonders, he took it right away as a short rally ended with Jo finding the net. While serving to consolidate, even though he was pushed to deuce he never looked uncomfortable and held the game with two successive beautiful drop-shots. He was 3*-0 up and it was already clear what his game plan would be: be aggressive, come to the net often, volley from all angles and throw in a few drop-shots when Jo is hovering beyond the baseline.
Jo held his next service game to get on the board but for the rest of the set, though there were no more breaks of serve, Jo had to fight much more to keep holding on. The pace of the match was entirely dictated by the Fed. He hit winners all over the place and continued to extract errors from the Frenchman. Meanwhile Roger had 2 successive love holds (without any aces too!) and held to 15 while serving for the set. 6-3 in 29 minutes with 11 winners and only 7 unforced errors.
Set 2 was probably the best tennis both the players produced in the match. Jo definitely raised his level but as his luck would have it, so did Roger. The one area where Roger hadn’t done spectacularly in Set 1 was his first serve % which was a mere 50%. He picked that up to 70% in Set 2 and won a staggering 95% of those points. He also won a crazy 75% of second serve points and 13 out of 14 net points. Compared to his 7 unforced errors from the first set, he committed only 5 and as for winners, in this set alone he hit 21 of them. Altogether this meant that even though they were on serve till the very end of the set, Jo was pushed to 30 in 4 games in a row before he could hold each time. In comparison, Roger had 3 games where he held to 15 and 3 where he had love holds. In Jo’s 6th service game he finally offered Roger a break point but then saved it with an ace. Another error and another break point and this time Jo netted the shot. Having to serve for the set, Roger produced one of his 3 love holds and the Swiss was up 2 sets to love, 6-3, 7-5.
In the beginning of Set 3, Jo was still positive and had a quick hold to start as did Roger. And then, out of nowhere, a winner from Roger and two errors from Jo brought up three break points in his next service game. Roger kept the pressure on and Jo netted the final shot giving the Swiss the early break in the set to go up 2*-1. Both players held serve for the next three games. Then as Jo served at 2*-4, two Federer winners and an error from Jo himself gave the Maestro 3 break point opportunities again. Nonetheless, some stunning winners and great serves helped Jo to keep holding and keep the difference to just 1 break at 3-4*.
Roger looked a bit thrown off and not quite focused and that showed immediately in his own service game to go up 5-3* when he offered Jo the only break point the Frenchman got in the match. Thankfully for Roger, Jo’s return landed wide. With some difficulty, Roger finally held with the help of an ace. Jo was still fired up and held to love to go up 4-5* to show his conviction but it was too little too late. Serving for the match, Roger soon had 3 match points. But then, perhaps the possibility of reaching a Grand Slam QF once again might have made him a bit nervous because Roger double-faulted for the first and only time that night. That was the solitary blip though. Considering how much he had come to the net this match, it was only fitting he ended the match with a forehand volley. Game, set, match Federer, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4. Here are the match stats.Here are some fun links for you too: Roger’s presser transcript and video, Jo’s presser transcript (so you know what he said about Roger taking away his time), Roger’s on-court interview with Jim and the spectacular ballboy catch (yes it’s a new one!).
To be honest I am finding it really hard to find any fault with Roger’s game at all in this match. I would say perhaps it would be nicer if he got more first serves in but he did win 88% of the ones that went in and his second serve held up nicely. He did lose focus in the third set but only for a few minutes and I think what’s important is how quickly he righted that ship which goes to show that his confidence has grown much more since last year. Basically he played as close to perfect as possible. Everything worked, and his backhands and volleys in particular were divine. On top of that, he was super efficient. Both Roger and Jo play quickly anyway but Roger totally controlled the speed of the match. The result was not only Jo not having any time to think, but also that he is fresher for his next round meeting with Andy than he was after last year’s 5-setter with Jo.
That brings me to tomorrow’s match. Same pairing as last year’s SF except a round earlier. I had decided in the beginning of the year to not make any predictions but honestly, I couldn’t make one for this match even if I tried. Obviously it is not realistic to expect this vintage Federer for every match from now on, especially since Andy is a very different opponent from Jo and has great defensive skills. Plus, Roger is still on his way back into form post last year. As he said so himself, he probably won’t be fully match ready before March or April. On the other hand I’m not entirely sure of Andy’s form either. He has sailed through his first 3 rounds but his kind draw ensured that his opponents were not strong enough to really test him. It could really go either way.
So instead I’ll end with this: I was and still am very proud of how the Maestro won his R4 match. It was the best he’s played in almost a year I think. And even if his form fails him in the QF, we know he still has it, and he’s moving along in the right direction. Oh and remember how he keeps setting records with each match? Well, by reaching the QFs he has now tied with Jimmy Connors for most Grand Slams QFs reached. They have each reached 41 QFs! That’s more than 10 years worth of Slams! Legendary indeed! 😀 Good luck Roger! We’ll all be cheering for you!
*Photos from the ausopen site*