Roger Federer overcame fast-serving Sam Groth to reach the third round of the US Open. Playing his 2nd night match already, Roger handled a tricky opponent who wasn’t afraid of the big stage despite never having faced the Maestro or playing at Arthur Ashe before.
There were parts of the match when Sam was very close to wrestling control away from the Swiss. Yet, right when you thought the sets were headed for tie-breaks, Roger found his 6th gear and stopped Groth in his tracks. You could almost be forgiven for thinking Roger got lucky but then, you know better. We have seen this happen time and time again. When being pushed towards inevitability, great champions can change the script. And right before time was about to run out, Roger did that each time, in all 3 sets.
The first set started with Roger not at his serving best but holding on nonetheless. Groth provided 2 break points for Roger in his second service game but saved them and after that both players continued to hold with no break points being offered. That is until at 3 all when Groth was serving to go up 4-3*. Roger suddenly had multiple break points and thankfully took one to go up 4*-3. By then Roger had begun to serve much better and he held quite easily, ensuring that Groth would have to serve to stay in the set. Sam did just that but we needn’t have worried because Roger held to love to take the first set, 6-4.
The second set started with Roger breaking Groth immediately. But apparently that meant nothing as Groth broke Roger back right away. After that it continued on serve with neither player getting a look into each other’s service games. Soon it was 4 all and just like the previous set, Roger got 2 break points on Sam’s service game right when he needed them. He couldn’t convert the first right away but got the next one and bam! He was up 5*-4 about to serve for the set. Thankfully there was no drama as he held to love again to seal the second set, 6-4.
The third set started with wobbles from both players. There were no easy holds as the score inched towards 2 all. Serving to go up 3-2*, a double fault from Sam gave Roger a break point but 3 consecutive aces saved the Australian. Perhaps that threw off Roger’s concentration a bit because out of the blue, some sloppy play and a double fault from the Maestro gave Groth the first break of the set. It was the only time in the match Groth broke the Swiss first. Sam was now up 4*-2. But, maybe the thrill of that break was too distracting or the pressure to maintain that level of play was too much because he faced great difficulty trying to consolidate the break. Roger kept applying pressure on Groth. Sam was down 0-30 before he leveled. Then he went up to 40-30 only to get pushed again to deuce. After getting an advantage, Groth was pushed to a second deuce before Roger finally had a break point. This time there was no hesitation as the Swiss snatched it and the set was back on serve at 3*-4.
Roger still needed to hold serve to ensure the break back had been consolidated and despite hitting a double fault, he held quite comfortably to take the score to 4 all. At that point I was thinking this would head to a tie-break but wouldn’t you know it, our champ didn’t want to take that chance. He kept putting pressure on Groth and finally converted another break point to break the Aussie and go ahead in the score for the first time in this set at 5*-4. He had to serve for the match, which he did so without any drama complete with 2 aces in that final game. The match took 1 hour and 48 minutes and here are the stats.Roger did have quite a few unforced errors and his serving could have been better at certain crucial points because his first serves suddenly disappeared. The 4 double faults are definitely a bit too high. But then again, what does it say when he playing Sam Groth and he had one more ace than the Aussie? Groth had his own serving issues for sure with his 8 double faults but that wasn’t the complete story. Many of his serves weren’t winners because Roger got them back in play. Sam’s fastest serve of the night was a mind-boggling 147mph serve and the Maestro got it back. Roger is particularly adept at playing the big servers and this match was no different. Groth also came to the net a lot yet Roger won a higher percentage of net points. Roger combated the serve and volley plays of Groth with amazing passing shots and fantastic lobs that found their corners every time. This wasn’t the best match from Roger but looking back, he didn’t need his best. At the end of the day he got the job done, in straight sets too, what more can you ask for? 😀
Meanwhile, Round 3 kicks off in a few hours and for the first time in this tournament, Roger gets a day match. He will face off against a Spaniard, Marcel Granollers to be precise. He has played Marcel twice before, both times in Dubai and won both matches in straight sets. But Marcel is in good form, having outlasted the big serving Ivo Karlovic across 5 sets in his own Round 2 match. He’s coming into this match full of confidence with nothing to lose, which will make him more dangerous than usual.
Be sure to tune in at around 2:30pm New York time; Roger’s match is the 3rd match of the day. There are 2 women’s matches scheduled before his but keep in mind that women’s matches are of course, best of three set matches. That’s it from me! But before I go, I shall leave you with some fun video clips: Here is Federer returning a 142mph serve with a frankly ridiculous backhand winner; Here’s the crazy hot shot of the night that got a finger wag from the Maestro; here is the post-match on-court interview; this is the link to the press conference interview and transcript and lastly, here’s a bonus clip of Roger’s interview with ESPN after the match. Good luck for the match Maestro! Allez! ❤
***Photos and stats are from the US Open site***