Roger Federer started his 2015 Australian Open with a solid first round straight sets win. Looking back, he had a fitting opponent in Yen-Hsun Lu. The player from Chinese Taipei certainly gave a good account of himself and has nothing to be ashamed off. He showed resilience and his adaptability in taking advantage of the changing conditions. Lu remained focused and gave Roger a run for his money all the way till the end, despite being 2 sets to love down.
Each set was different in flavor. Set 1 was Roger taking a bit of time to get settled in. He wasted quite a few breakpoints in the first game alone. However he wasn’t threatened on his own service games at all. In fact Roger had his best serving stats in the first set, dropping only 2 points on the first serve and none on the second. He offered Lu no breakpoints, hit 5 aces and no double faults. He had a total of 6 breakpoints from Lu and finally converted one, which was enough for him to take the set 6-4 in 32 minutes.
By the second set, Roger had found his groove. It seemed like he was toying with Yen-Hsun who was doing his best to keep up. They had some good rallies with the Swiss usually winning the point. At 2 all, with Lu serving, Roger got his opportunity to break and … missed. But no worries, he eventually got the break. Before Yen-Hsun could blink, Roger held to love to consolidate the break and the pressure was back on Lu. Lu looked lost as he got broken again to give our hero the double break before serving for the set. But then suddenly, the Maestro lost his concentration or rhythm or maybe both. He served 2 double faults and unexpectedly Yen-Hsun had 2 breakpoint chances. Thankfully, Roger put the brakes on just in time; he saved the breakpoints and served out the set, 6-2 in 32 minutes.
Judging by the difficulties Roger had in closing out the second set, I had a feeling the third set might be tough. Sure enough, not only did Roger’s level drop, Lu also upped his game. Roger mentioned in the presser later that the conditions had drastically changed from set 1 to set 3. As the temperature got lower, the pace slowed down which helped Lu who had also started to serve better by then. Meanwhile, errors had started to leak from the Maestro, even providing Yen-Hsun with 2 breakpoint chances. It was an intense set with neither player giving an inch as the match looked like it would progress to an eventual third set tie-break.
But wait! Roger was in no mood to extend this match any longer. Serving to go up to 3 all Roger had enough. A quick love hold and the pressure was on Lu to hold. Credit to Lu that he didn’t blink and ultimately held to stay on serve at 4-3*. Roger of course quickly held his own service game again, dropping just one point but then Lu held too, to go up 5-4*. However, the FedExpress was well and truly running by then and another love hold from the Swiss put the score at 5 all. It was now or never for Roger if he wanted to avoid the tie-break. And right on cue, with some creative points, Roger had 3 breakpoints. He needed only one and boom! Roger was up 6*-5, about to serve for the match. This time Roger had no issues serving it out. He dropped just one point in the final game and took the set 7-5 in 49 minutes. Here are the match stats.Yen-Hsun and Roger engaged in quite a few rallies which will help Roger going forward I’m sure. Lu also made him rethink strategies and pushed him especially in the third set which is good prep for his subsequent matches. Sometimes a very lopsided win doesn’t give a player enough information about the actual level of their own game so this was a good match in that sense. Roger definitely has more awareness not only about where his game is at but also got a proper feel for the court and the conditions.
Lu is a complete baseline grinder. He approached the net 6 times and won just 2 of those points. In contrast, Roger came to the net 43 times and won 30 of them. Roger’s aggressive net play was one of the keys to his success in the match, as was his great serving. Our champ also moved very well indeed and was super fast coming to the net. He seemed fit and fresh and looked like he could’ve gone for 2 more sets easily while Lu was totally done by the end. The Maestro hit a staggering 57 winners to Lu’s 20. But the area he struggled with was the unforced errors. He had 37 unforced errors and 24 of them came from his forehand alone. I’m sure that will be one area he will focus on during his practice tomorrow. Here is a link to the spectacular around-the-net-post shot he hit and the boss-mode dropshot as well. Here is the match point clip, here are the highlights. a clip of his on-court interview and also a link to the presser transcript.
With this win, Roger has set/reached a few records:
- This was Roger’s 1,001st match win in 1,228 career matches.
- Roger has now appeared in 61 consecutive Grand Slams as of this 2015 Australian Open. This is an all-time record.
- Roger has also appeared in 63 Grand Slams. He is tied at 2nd place with Lleyton Hewitt; they are both behind Fabrice Santoro’s 70.
- This was Roger’s 74th Australian Open match win which is also an extension of the all-time record held by him. The next player on the list is none other than our champ’s own coach and fellow legend Stefan Edberg, with 56 wins.
- This was Roger’s 280th Grand Slam match win which is an all-time record by a mile. Connors is in 2nd place with 232 Grand Slam match wins. The closest active player is Nadal with 188 with Novak a close 3rd with 180 match wins.
Up next is the Italian player Simone Bolelli. Roger has a positive 3-0 H2H against him but Bolelli is no pushover and is currently ranked #48 in the world. Though they have played only 3 times, the most recent was at the Davis Cup SF last year which Roger won in three straight but tight sets. Simone certainly has the ability to push Roger plus he’s had a fantastic year, coming back from being ranked #367 in April 2014 to zipping through the ranks to where he is now. But I feel the Yen-Hsun Lu match has allowed Roger to get used to the conditions and get some rhythm so hopefully the Maestro can come away with a win. Roger’s match will be the last match of the day session at the Rod Laver Arena. Till then, enjoy the clips and the non-Roger tennis day ahead 🙂
***Photos and stats taken from the Australian Open site***