Roger Federer has reached the SFs in Cincinnati! Excluding the Davis Cup, out of the 12 tournaments Roger has played this year he has reached at least the SFs in 9 of them so far. Talk about consistency! But back to Cincinnati, yesterday, in the marquee match of the night he defeated a familiar foe, a certain Mr. Andy Murray. He did so in straight sets, 6-3, 7-5 and finally evened up the H2H to 11-11.
The match was edgy, tense and had hardly any rhythm or flow. The momentum kept shifting till the end. The first set was cagey. Federer was clearly the aggressor and started the match very quick. He had break points immediately in Murray’s first service game but (of course) failed to convert. He then held to get himself on the board with a game that included this ridiculous forehand winner. At 1 all, he put Andy under pressure again, getting break points and… not converting. He then held to get the score to 2 all. In Andy’s third service game, he provided Roger with yet another break point opportunity and this time, Roger finally converted to go up 3*-2.
Serving to consolidate, Roger wobbled for a bit as Murray had a break point. But the Maestro saved it with a great serve and held. The score was now 4-2*. Murray then finally had a good service game and held to keep the break to just 1. In Roger’s next service game Andy had another break point but a fantastic serve out wide got it back to deuce. Roger faced no more break points from then on and ultimately held, leaving Andy to serve to stay in the set at 3*-5. But Andy was not having a good service day (only 47% of his 1st serves got in this set). Roger had two set points on Andy’s serve but he needed only one as Andy’s shot went wide to give the Swiss the first set, 6-3, in 40 minutes. Roger had 9 break points in the set but thankfully the 2 he converted were enough to give him the set.
If set 1 was tense, set 2 was wonky. Roger and Andy each held their first service games. But then Roger lost his focus for a bit while Andy started to play better; the errors started to creep into Roger’s game. Serving to go up 2-1 he gave Andy multiple break points which Andy gladly took. Murray had broken Roger for the first time in the match. But he wouldn’t have to wait long to break him again. After holding his own serve to go up 3-1* he broke Roger again even though Roger was up 40-15 in that game. The momentum was clearly on Murray’s side as he went up a double-break to 4*-1. We the viewers, the commentators and even Roger himself probably all thought this set was lost for the Swiss. However, as Andy was serving to go up 5-1, Roger played two impossibly good shots in a row to give himself 2 break points at 15-40. Look at the spin on this shot! Andy saved the first with a great serve but on the second he sent a backhand long. Roger roared and got back one of his two breaks.
To me it still felt like this was going to be a long climb back but I think Roger didn’t feel the same. On the other side of the net he could probably sense Andy’s resolve and confidence wavering. Roger is dangerous when he smells blood and he pounced despite the odds still seemingly in Andy’s favor. His forehand made some magical winners to enable him to hold serve and push the score up to 3-4*. Even though he was still a break down, you could see Roger was already playing better. And thus, while Andy tried to serve for the 2nd time to get to his 5th game of the set, he couldn’t hide from Roger anywhere on the court. The Swiss had 2 break points again but this time he didn’t even need to do anything as Andy double-faulted. The score was back on serve at 4 all.
Roger had a tight service game next when he got pushed to 30 all but he held nonetheless, to go up 5-4* and make Andy serve to stay in the match. Andy found his groove in the nick of time and held to hang on at 5 all. Roger then held his next game to go up 6-5* and it seemed we might be heading for a tie-break. Andy was up 40-30 when, after a long rally, he hit a backhand long to bring up deuce. A fantastic point from Roger that included a drop shot and a backhand volley got the Swiss his first match point. That was all he would need. Andy netted an easy forehand and Roger took the set 7-5 after being down 1-4* only 20 minutes before. It really did feel like Roger stole the set from under Andy’s nose, a thought that crossed his mind too apparently as he told us in this fantastic post match interview with ESPN 😛 Here are the match stats.It was a topsy turvy match with some great moments mixed in with some frustrating ones. Both players had more unforced errors than winners. But there were few key differences that allowed Roger to win in the end. He served better than Andy, he won more points too. He made Andy run much more than him and lastly, he came to the net a lot, 27 times to Andy’s 9 and he won 17 of those 27 points. Though he had quite a few failed volleys, he had ones like these too, that were simply sublime. Here’s the hot shot of the match with a brilliant forehand from the Maestro. And here are the highlights that should give you a good idea of how the match went. It also includes the amazing point that brought up match point for the Swiss.
This match should give him confidence going into the SFs. Hopefully he isn’t too tired but after playing two 3 setters it must have felt good to come through in 2 sets last night. He will face the only player in his twenties left in the tournament, Milos Raonic. Raonic has revenge on his mind after the Wimbledon SF loss to Roger earlier this year. He has brought up that loss and the anger he felt afterwards in almost every press conference he has done since then. He is in great form, winning the title in Washington only 2 weeks ago. The North American hard courts suit his game greatly so he will be a force to be reckoned with. He also had a ridiculously easy QF yesterday where his opponent won only 1 game. Plus he has had more rest than Roger as he finished much earlier. It will be a tough match for sure. But Roger handles big servers quite well and his H2H with Milos is 5-0 so really this match could go either way. Here’s hoping our Maestro emerges as the winner of yet another night match at Cincinnati. C’mon Roger!