When was the last time you watched an ATP 3 setter match finish in under two hours? Well 1 hour and 48 minutes was all that was needed to settle the battle between Roger Federer and Gael Monfils. Finally, amidst all the fastness and furiousness the Swiss emerged the winner. He was so pumped up even after the match that he grabbed some food (don’t think I’ve seen him eat right after a match before) and (gently) head butted the camera after signing off his victory. It was an adrenaline filled match with non-stop thrills from start to finish.
To begin with, Roger got broken immediately and soon went down 0*-2. But then guess what. He held and broke back to get to 2 all with an inside-out forehand that was so delicious Gael could only stare at it in admiration. Roger then held and broke again to go up 4-2*. You’d think we could relax a bit after that but no. Gael held and then broke Roger again to get the score level to 4 all. An irritated Roger held his next game and forced Monfils to serve to stay in the set. And wouldn’t you know it, Roger broke Gael and took the set.
The second set was equally tense with some great shot making from both players. They kept pushing each other and Roger even had break points but he couldn’t convert. Each continued to hold serve till 4 all. Then, as Roger was serving to go up 5-4 he made some errors and Monfils suddenly had a break point. As I drew my breath in worried anticipation, Roger got broken. He was so disgusted with himself that he dropped his racquet hard on the court. Monfils had no problems in serving for the set and it was 1 set all.
Into the third set and the momentum seemed to be in the Frenchman’s favor. Roger had to save 3 break points in the set but he kept hanging on. Monfils meanwhile continued to hold much better and offered the Swiss no break point chances. The atmosphere was so tense, at one point Roger wanted to challenge but the umpire didn’t hear him. Instead the umpire told him he needs to raise his finger if he wishes to challenge, to which the Maestro replied sassily that the umpire wasn’t even looking in his direction. All the drama! And then, to top it off, right after that Roger hit this shot which must have acted as a release valve for all the tension and no doubt he felt good afterwards! It left my twitter timeline gobsmacked for sure!
The score was now 4-3* with Monfils to serve but ever since that argument with the umpire, this was no ordinary Roger. For the first time in a long time I saw him channel all the anger in the best way possible. Before you could blink, Roger hit this spectacular shot to bring up two break points. He missed the first but not the second and BOOM! Gael was broken. Roger was up 5*-3 and about to serve for the match. There was a bit of tension as he got pushed to 30 all. But by then Roger was fearless and he was able to serve it out after all 😀 Game, set, match, Federer 6-4, 4-6, 6-3. Here are the stats.Roger’s return game was much better than in his previous matches. Though he had more errors than winners at the beginning, by the end of the match they had evened out to 34 winners against 33 errors. The only cause for concern was the number of double faults he hit and it would have been better if he had won more points off his first serve. Overall however, this match was higher in quality than the last one and he rightly felt good about his performance:
“I thought I returned pretty well tonight. Much better than I have in my previous matches, that’s really what kept me calm throughout the match. I tried to come forward because the conditions are quite fast here. I think that was a good tactic out here tonight.”
It was a tough win for sure, but a good one. As long as he’s not too tired, I think that match gave him the best feeling he could have about his game before facing an old nemesis in the QFs later tonight. For the second time this year, he will square off against Andy Murray for a spot in the SFs. Andy is one of only 3 active players with a positive H2H against Roger (do you know who the other two are?) but it’s a slim one, 11-10. If Roger wins today he could level that up. Both are coming into the match not the best in form but not the worst they have played this year either.
Honestly, I have no idea how this will play out. Roger has had to spend much more time on court and he was already tired from Toronto. On the other hand yesterday’s win probably gave him a good confidence boost so who knows what will happen. Either way, it should be exciting to watch. Hope Roger can bring his A-game for another win. Allez!