Roger Federer has reached the SFs in Rome! Back when Roger announced his full and heavy clay schedule, I had the least hope for this tournament. Rome has been historically frustrating for our champ. Yet, of the 3 clay Masters, clearly he has performed the best here this year. Maybe flying under the radar has worked for him. The talk has been about Novak and Rafa and Andy as a new clay court specialist which left the spotlight off the Swiss for a bit. Given the results, I think we are all just fine with that 😀
Roger’s QF opponent today was an old foe, Tomas Berdych. In fact, this was their 20th match. Tomas has had plenty of big wins over Roger to not be in awe of him and he had been playing great leading up to this match. So obviously, I was nervous. Roger seemed a bit cautious in the beginning but held nonetheless despite not really having his first serves. Things went fine till 2 all. Then before you could blink, Roger got broken. That seemed to bring some life into Roger and he sprang into action pushing Berdych to a breakpoint. A double fault from the Czech and the set was back on serve at 3 all. Roger then held to love to go up 4-3*.
This seemed a good moment to get a crucial break and the Maestro did just that to go up 5*-3. While serving for the set, Roger still had problems with his first serves and wouldn’t you know it, Berdych had 3 breakpoints at 0-40. But one by one, Roger saved each one and then had one set point but failed to convert. But have no fear, he got another one and this time there was no mistake. Roger won that set 6-3 with only 46% of his first serves going in. I don’t know how he did it but let’s not question that now. Onto set 2!
Set 2 saw a whole lot of drama. A photographer dropped a camera lens on the court and caused play to be stopped which annoyed Roger to no end. There was another point when Berdych was late in making a call to the umpire which angered Roger even more. Meanwhile, the Czech wasn’t having a fun time either because in addition to the rising tempers, the wind had also suddenly picked up. I know this because Roger’s hair was blowing in the wind. And I know that because I am an observant fan *cough cough*. The billowing winds picked up the clay swirling it everywhere and getting in both players eyes.
But strangely, through all the commotion, Roger’s level of tennis actually kept getting better and better. From getting in only 46% of his first serves in, in set 1, in set 2 he got in 80% of them in, despite the wind. He faced no breakpoints in the set, returned better and played excellent net points. He showed his full arsenal of shots including a fantastic lob over Berdych. At 3 all, Roger finally got his chance and broke Tomas to go up 4*-3. He had a bit of difficulty consolidating but in the end he did and it was up to Berdych to serve to stay in the match at 3*-5. Instead, Tomas gave Roger 2 match points. Roger needed only one. Game, set, match Federer, 6-3, 6-3 in 66 minutes. Here are the match stats.Roger ran much more than Berdych, 111 meters more in fact. Movement is clearly not an issue for this ‘old man’ 😉 He also handled the conditions much better than Tomas which was not the case a year ago. He also kept the rallies short and won more points off them too, 36 to Tomas’ 23. Oh and one more interesting stat, Roger’s backhand has been very good so far, which is surprising given the surface. But Roger did mention that the conditions were fast so maybe that has helped him on this wing. Here is the ATP hot shot, a few more hot shots, the on-court interview, the post-match interview and a link to the full match (almost). And below are excerpts from his presser.
“From the baseline I was playing very well. My serve was not quite there in the beginning. I had to go through too many second serves and he was able to take advantage of that and break early. For me, it was important to pick it up on the serve, which is maybe the easiest thing to do. I felt good again on the return, moving well. As it went on, I think I got into the match better and better. The wind picked up in the second set. That’s why I think Tomas didn’t play so well anymore and I was able to get the job done. So I’m very pleased how the match went.”
Up next is fellow Swiss player Stan Wawrinka. Stan had a very good win over Rafa and is running high on confidence. He also defeated Roger the last time they played on clay in a match I will never revisit. If you have read my earlier posts and/or follow me on twitter then you might know, I hate Roger’s matches with Stan. There is pent-up emotion and angst that spills over that I do not wish to see. I always feel Roger is extra tentative in these matches. Tomorrow will be very tough indeed.
When the draw had come out for Rome I said I would be very happy if he reached the SFs and he did. So for me, this is icing on the cake. From the interviews, Roger sounds like he’s playing with nothing to lose and that has worked out for him thus far, so maybe it will work one more time too. The match will be played at 8:00pm local time. Wishing you the very best Roger. Go out there, stay loose, remember to breathe and give him hell! Allez!