Roger Federer stormed into the fourth round of the US Open through an actual storm. Finally the Maestro was given a day session but it turned out it was on the most humid and stormy day yet at the Open this year. As Roger and Marcel Granollers took to the court the clouds were already darkening above their heads.
Maybe the clouds distracted our champ, maybe the sticky weather threw him off but probably it was a combination of those factors and Marcel coming out of the blocks flying that led to Roger getting broken at love right away. Roger looked totally lost and confused as Marcel pulled him across the court and back and forth, setting a very aggressive tempo. The doubles specialist in Marcel came out and for those moments Roger looked unsure on how to get a handle on the Spaniard’s play. Within minutes Granollers was up 3-0*. After that, Roger had two subsequent love holds but Marcel held on too. Marcel was up 5-2* which meant Roger had to serve to stay in the set. At that moment, the officials came and ultimately stopped play and took the players off-court despite the fact that there was no rain yet. The decision was made due to the threat of lightening but the rain came down in buckets as soon as play was stopped. It was a full-on storm.
There was some confusion about scheduling for the rest of the day but I knew Roger would be back on, the storm was supposed to die down in an hour or so. So off I went to bed, worried and yet having a feeling that Roger would be able to use this break to analyze whatever had thrown him off till then and come up with a few solutions.
An hour and a half later we were back and Roger came out of the gate rearing to go. By then the winds had died down and the courts were a bit slower being cooled off from the rain. Perhaps that came into play as he held to make Marcel serve for the set at 5*-3. Instead Marcel got broken as Roger went up 4*-5 and the set back on serve. But Marcel still had some tricks up his sleeve and broke Roger as the Swiss was serving to stay in the set. 1st set to the Spaniard, 6-4 in 27 minutes.
Marcel kicked off the second set with a service hold. Little did he or we know, that was going to be the only game he would get for the next 9 games. Roger had a tough time holding serve to get on the board. But right after that, at 1 all, with Marcel serving to go up 2-1*, this shot happened. It breathed new life into the match and into Roger. Marcel went down 0-15 and there was no looking back for the Maestro. He broke Marcel to take the lead 2*-1 in the set and then held, broke and held again to take a commanding 5-1* lead with a double break. Marcel had to serve to stay in the set and wouldn’t you know it, he offered Roger break points instead. Of course, Roger being the gentleman he is, politely refused to take the first one. But then he remembered it’s not good manners to refuse gifts and graciously accepted it 😉 The set went to the Swiss, 6-1 in 36 minutes.
We were at 1 set all but the momentum was clearly on the side of the Maestro. To ensure that Marcel and the world were in no doubt of this fact, he held his serve and immediately broke Marcel and held again to go up 3-0* in the third set. Marcel managed to come up in the midst of drowning in Federer-winners with a solid hold to get on the board. But that was all Marcel was allowed to do. Roger won the next 7 games in a row. No matter how much Marcel tried, Roger was untouchable in this set. Roger faced no break points and instead broke Marcel once more to go up 5*-1 with some ingenious play. He had no problems serving it out for a second breadstick set, 6-1 in 28 minutes.
Remember I said right above that Roger won the next 7 games in a row? Well 4 of those 7 games were in the 4th set. Roger had a tough time especially consolidating the second break but got there in the end after saving multiple break points and went up 4-0*. Marcel sneaked in one last time to get on the board at 1-4* only for Roger to respond with a love hold and go up 5-1*. Marcel served to stay in the match but yet again provided Roger breakpoints which he finally took to win the game, set and match, 4-6, 6-1, 6-1, 6-1 in 1 hour and 58 minutes. Here is the post-match on-court interview and here are the match stats.There were two Rogers in this match, pre-storm and post-storm. The first set was the worst he’s played since the Toronto final earlier this year and the next 3 sets were certainly the best he’s played at the US Open thus far. Even though the scores indicate 3 breaksticks, those who saw the match will know they don’t represent how hard Marcel made him work. The both play very fast and aggressively so there were a lot of dropshots and angled volleys in addition to groundstrokes from the baseline. There were several amazing shots per set that made me go ‘oooooooh!’ along with other times when I was willing him to hang on. It was a dizzying roller-coaster ride and I am very proud of how he withstood Marcel’s pressure and in turn was able to dominate and play well in the big moments too. Despite the first set, I do feel that Roger has well and truly arrived in NYC. He was tested and he came out even stronger.
After that first set, he did everything better. He served well, including hitting a 130mph serve! He kept the unforced errors low compared to the high number of winners. He went to the net 51 times and won 32 of them compared to the doubles specialist across the net; Marcel had 36 net points, winning 22 of them. Most importantly, his movement was smooth and explosive; he ran all over the court, both laterally and front and back, and was super fast in all directions. Both players were creative in their shot-selections which made the match a treat despite the lopsided score. But when it really mattered, Roger was always the better player. Marcel doesn’t deserve such a brutal score line but hey, he took the first set so I think that’s enough 😛
Up next is another Spaniard, (what’s with the doubles? Back to back Aussies and now back to back Spaniards?) Roberto Bautista-Agut. He is 26 years old and went from being ranked #73 this January to now being #19 in the world. He is frankly quite scary, can play well on all surfaces and having a stellar breakthrough year. He won his first two career titles in the span of 2 months in June and July, one on grass and one on clay. Roger has never played him before but Roger knows ALL so he summed up what you need to know about Roberto himself. Helpful Maestro, isn’t he?
Never played him. I think he’s done extremely well. Didn’t he win three different tournaments on three different surfaces this year? He’s quick on his feet. He doesn’t miss much. He’s consistent. He’s got a pretty good first serve. He’s overall a solid player. I would assume he’s fit, too, because he comes from the Spanish tennis school, which they just know how to train hard. They never get tired. They’re always ready to go. They have a good mental approach, point-for-point mentality. Then again, he’s not the typical Spaniard with a lot of topspin. I mean, he plays unbelievably flat actually, which is very surprising for a Spaniard. But I’m looking forward to the match. Like I said, never played him.
I am actually quite wary of Roberto, he’s taken down some big names this year. But then Roger was at his explosive best in the last three sets against Marcel. He really took his game to another level. Plus he is used to the night conditions at Ashe and this will be yet another night match. Here’s hoping Darth Federer can get the job done!
Before a sign off, a few records our champ achieved with this Round 3 win:
- This was Roger’s 70th US Open match win.
- With this win, Roger now has at least 70 match wins at 3 Grand Slams, the US Open with 70, and Wimbledon and the Australian Open with 73 each. This is of course a record.
- This was Roger’s 1,199 career match and 975 career match win.
- This was also his 277 Grand Slam match win, which is a record that he keeps extending on his own, no one is even close.
- With this win, Roger has reached the fourth round of the US Open for the 14th consecutive year.
The fourth round match is at 7pm local time on Arthur Ashe stadium, so less than 9 hours to go! Allez Roger!