rogerfedererfan

This blog covers all things RF. It is dedicated to my dearest friend and avid FedFan @EfieZac. May she RIP 💙


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Roger Federer wins his 18th Grand Slam!!!

f_29012017_federer_299

“Look, if you had, one shot, or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted. In one moment
Would you capture it, or just let it slip?”

Prologue –

Melbourne. Sunday. January 29th, 2017. 7:30pm local time/ 2:30pm my time/ 8:30am GMT/ 3:30am EST – 17th seed Roger Federer comes out on Rod Laver Arena followed by his biggest rival with the most lopsided H2H stat against him, 9th seed Rafa Nadal. This is the 9th time they are facing off in a Grand Slam final. The last time they met at a Major was right here in Melbourne 3 years ago in the SFs. Roger lost. The last time they met in the final of a Major was 5.5 years ago at the French Open. Roger lost that one too. Following that logic the pundits said… well you know what? F*** what they said. Here’s what actually happened.

Set 1
“So here I go it’s my shot.
Feet, fail me not
This may be the only opportunity that I got”

f_29012017_federer_262Between the two, Rafa is the one who starts stronger, holding comfortably. Roger takes the first few games to settle in but soon finds his groove. The set remains on serve till 3-all. Then in the 7th game Roger ups the aggression on Rafa’s serve. This game had a multitude of gems from Roger; forehands, backhands and volleys all leading to 2 breakpoints and before you could hold your breath, the Spaniard hit a backhand wide and was broken. A subsequent consolidation game to love made us feel more secure. Rafa held his next game but that was no problem for our champ who took the first set comfortably serving for it, sealing it with an ace. First set, Federer, 6-4. Here is a tiny highlights clip.

Set 2
“Back to the lab again, this whole rhapsody
He better go capture this moment and hope it don’t pass him”

Set 2 begins with a rejuvenated Rafa holding the first game. Then out of nowhere, Roger’s serves disappear. He starts his game with a double fault. Roger looks a bit lost. Where did all that momentum from Set 1 go? f_29012017_federer_265A forehand error gives Rafa a 0-30 score. Roger keeps fighting and comes back to 30-all but a Rafa winner earns him his first breakpoint. Roger saves it but then his backhand finds the net and Rafa has a second breakpoint. Rafa then goes back to the one technique that has always paid him dividends: attack the backhand. And like so many times before, it pays off. Roger goes down a break and even though he has two breakpoints on Rafa’s serve immediately, Roger cannot convert. The unraveling begins as Roger is broken a second time to go down 0-4 in the set. As Rafa is serving to go up 5-0*, Roger somehow finally finds his game again and manages to get a break back. He even consolidates that break with his first hold of the set to go up to 2-4* but Rafa is still flying high on confidence. It doesn’t matter that Roger holds again, he can’t touch Rafa’s service games any more this set. Rafa takes the set with a love hold, 6-3. Here are the highlights. One set all. My nausea sets in.

Set 3
“No more games, I’ma change what you call rage
Tear this mother***ing roof off like two dogs caged
I was playing in the beginning, the mood all changed”

Roger kicks off Set 3 by serving first and it appears to be a Herculean task. Despite going up to 40-0, he soon gets caught up in errors and has to save multiple breakpoints. Nonetheless, Roger somehow holds and all that effort seems to give him the boost he desperately needs. f_29012017_federer_264He pounces on Rafa in the very next game and draws out a breakpoint and actually converts it for once! A quick hold to love consolidates that break and Roger has that fierce glint in his eye again now that he is up 3-0*. Rafa holds next but only barely. Little does Rafa know that will be the only game he will win this set. A love hold gives Roger the lead at 4-1* and then a game full of stupendous Federer backhands gives our champ the double break. The backhand has just gotten better and better throughout this tournament and despite the pounding it is having to withstand from Rafa’s forehands, for the most part it is holding up beautifully! Roger just has to hold once more to take the set but somehow the errors have started to come back along with the nerves. He even has to save 2 breakpoints but ultimately he manages to take the set 6-1. Here is a small highlights clip. Federer is up two sets to one, just one set away from victory.

Set 4
“He’s choking how, everybody’s joking now
The clock’s run out, time’s up, over, blaow!
Snap back to reality. Oh, there goes gravity”

f_29012017_federer_266Set 4 starts off with both players holding but those errors that made cameos at the end of set 3 became promoted to regulars and Roger gets broken in his second service game to go down 1-2*. After that, Roger barely holds on, getting pushed in each service hold and only his serve actually helping him out. He can’t seem to push Rafa this set and the Spaniard ultimately serves out the set comfortably to 6-3. Here are the highlights for the set. Two sets all, we go into a 5th set and suddenly what seemed to be just a sprint away has turned into a marathon. To make matters more worrisome, Roger goes off court for a medical timeout. Meanwhile, I hold myself and gently rock back and forth trying to remind myself to breathe.

Set 5 – Part 1
“Too much for me to wanna stay in one spot,
Another day of monotony’s gotten me to the point, I’m like a snail
I’ve got to formulate a plot or I end up in jail or shot
Success is my only mother***ing option, failure’s not”

f_29012017_federer_268Back from the medical timeout Roger serves first to start set 5, but before I can regain my composure from the disaster of set 4, the Swiss is already broken. Perhaps anybody else would have given up next but Roger actually gets 3 breakpoints immediately on Rafa’s first service game of the set. Yet Rafa saves them all and goes up 2-0*. Roger holds the next game to get on the board but to make matters more complicated, Roger has the trainer out on court now during the changeover. Next game and Roger pushes Rafa to another breakpoint. But unbelievably Roger fails to convert that one too. Another massive hold for Rafa who goes up 3-1*. This is slipping through our fingers, or is it?

Set 5 – Part 2
“He’s so mad, but he won’t give up that easy, no
He won’t have it, he knows his whole back’s to these ropes
It don’t matter, he’s dope”

After the treatment to his right leg, Roger holds to 15 and looks more confident now. He is still down a break though, can he continue pushing for breakpoints? More importantly, can he actually convert one if he gets the chance? And thus starts the most important game in this entire match. It seems Roger has now decided to play with abandon and dictate the points himself rather than get pushed around by Rafa. f_29012017_federer_283That is the mental shift we were all waiting for Roger! If not now then when? You have nothing to lose at this point! Let him have it! Rafa serves but it is Roger who wins the opening point of an 18-shot rally with an insane backhand, 0-15. He wins the second point from a Rafa error, 0-30 and he yells out ‘Chum Jetze!’ But Rafa claws back to 30-all. Another Rafa error gives Roger a breakpoint. But Rafa saves it, of course; deuce. A delicious backhand winner from Roger and we have a breakpoint AGAIN! Will Rafa save this one too? Nope! A Rafa forehand error seals it this time! Finally we are at 3-all and back on serve!

If that isn’t momentum I don’t know what is. Roger bravely continues to remain aggressive and wastes no time; he holds to love with an ace. For the first time in this set he is up on the score; 4-3* with Rafa to serve. Roger gets 3 breakpoints immediately at 0-40. Any guesses what happens to them? Yep. Rafa saves them all to get to deuce. But Roger keeps pushing Rafa with laser focus, unperturbed, and earns a 4th breakpoint with a tantalizing forehand down the line at the end of a ridiculous 26-shot rally! Alas, Rafa saves that as well. But then a forehand error from Rafa gives Roger his 5th breakpoint. And this time Roger successfully forces an error out of Rafa and finally gets the break! Roger is up 5*-3 and about to serve for the Championship!

Set 5 – Part 3
“The soul’s escaping, through this hole that is gaping
This world is mine for the taking
Make me king, as we move toward a new world order”

Roger’s heart must be beating a zillion times a minute because I know mine is. I have been crying since Roger was broken in this set. The first tears were of despair, then when he broke Rafa to level the set they were tears of joy and now they are tears of fear + exhilaration. f_29012017_federer_284There must be a word for that combined feeling but if so I can’t remember it. All I know is that the world has come to a standstill. All around the globe, millions of us are defying time-zones to watch this drama. And none of us dare breathe while a 35 year-old father of 4 prepares to serve this out.

First point a Rafa winner, 0-15. Second point a Roger error, 0-30. BREATHE ROGER! An ace and it is 15-30. But a Rafa winner next and Nadal has two breakpoints. ARE YOU KIDDING ME UNIVERSE?! Roger’s 19th ace saves the first. An inside-out forehand save the second and it is deuce. Then lo and behold, an error from Rafa gives Roger his first Championship point. His first serve is called fault and then his second serve gets called out. But Roger then challenges successfully to get another first serve which is called out again. He challenges once more but this time to no avail. He does get his second serve in but a forehand error brings it back to deuce. By now I am grabbing my head with both my hands and making growling noises because I am too tense for actual words.

rogerfederer2017australianopenday14rip5ipnwkqhxRoger’s 20th ace gives him a second Championship point. This is it. Come on Roger! The Swiss gets his serve in but Rafa’s return is weak and Roger pounces on it to hit a forehand winner that clips the line. Or does it? It hasn’t been called out so Rafa challenges. It is ironic that Hawkeye will decide the outcome of this match given Roger’s feelings about that technology. Roger, his box, the Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne and the whole planet all wait for the replay and stare at the screen with bated breath. And it’s INNNNNNNNN! Game, Set, Match Federer! 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 and Roger Federer is the 2017 Australian Open Champion and winner of 18 Slams! Here is a clip of that cliffhanger match point!

Epilogue –

Here is a clip of the match highlights, a mini movie of the final and Roger’s speech at the trophy ceremony. The Australian Open youtube channel has a ton more fun clips and here’s a sample few: Roger’s presser, Roger’s post match interview, Roger reflecting about the match point and lastly an amazing 18 minute clip about ‘Federer v Nadal‘.

As Roger said during the ESPN interview, this win stands on its own, for many reasons:
For being his 18th Grand Slam win.
For making him wait 4.5 years after the last one.
For being his first tournament in his comeback after a 6-month layoff.
For being his 5th Australian Open making him the first man to win 5 or more titles at 3 different Grand Slams.
For being his first Slam tournament win in which he played three 5-setters.
mirkaFor winning the match by playing on his own terms.
For winning the mental battle against Rafa.
For increasing the gap in Slams between him and Rafa.
For winning a Slam Final against Rafa in 10 years.
For winning a Slam match against Rafa on hardcourts.
For beating 4 top 10 players in 5 matches.
For taking his ranking from 17 to 10.
For shutting up the naysayers.
For confounding the pundits.
For defying the laws of age and time and stats.
For showing the world he will always be a champion.
For being his first Slam win since his boys were born.
For giving back to his team for their hard work.
For giving back to his wife, for without her support he wouldn’t be here.
For giving back to those fans who never gave up on him.
For proving to himself, he always had what it takes.
For keeping faith that an opportunity would come.
For knowing if the opportunity came, he would take it
For never giving up.
For having belief.

No one deserves this more than you Roger! I am so very proud of you and honoured to be your fan. You continue to make me believe in magic and fairy tales! Congratulations on winning your 18th Grand Slam!

“You better lose yourself in the music, the moment
You own it, you better never let it go
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime”

-All lyrics scattered throughout this post are from “Lose Yourself” by Eminem

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***Photos are either from the Australian Open Tennis Australia photos or they are Getty Images from Zimbio.com***

 

 

 

 

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Federer’s Australian Open R2 match – Parts 1 and 2

2-Roger+Federer+Australian+Open+Day+3+W2HoTqQEYKSxIt was a 2-part match. Part 1 was Set 1, with Roger Federer not finding much rhythm, having trouble adjusting to the conditions and generally feeling ‘off’. In the midst of this ‘off-ness’ he kept flexing the fingers of his right hand, inspecting it every few minutes with great scrutiny as if he had grown a 2nd pinkie. Across the net was Simone Bolelli, a player who had never taken a set off our champ but was determined to stop that trend. This combo did not bode well for the Swiss and he got broken which allowed the Italian to take the first set, 6-3.

At the changeover, Roger called the trainer out on-court. Nervous fans looked on hoping to figure out what had happened to his hand but as the camera came close, he stopped the cameraman short as he wanted privacy to discuss his issue with the trainer. When set 2 started, we were no closer to knowing what this mystery ailment was but at least Roger looked to be rearing to go and that was the beginning of Part 2 of this two-part match. For a while the set was tense, with both players holding strong till 3 all. Roger served very well to go up 4-3* but as Bolelli was about to serve for 4 all, the Maestro had his chance. He kept pushing and kept Bolelli scampering and eventually got the crucial break. Roger served out the set, 6-3 and it was one set all.

Roger+Federer+Australian+Open+Day+3+A3OAyVn6H7axThe beginning of the third set was crucial for both players, either Roger was going to keep the momentum on his side or Simone would put a stop to that to start fresh. But Roger had begun to get in the groove by then and amped up his aggressive game from the first point. His relentlessness earned him a break point and a Bolelli forehand into the net, gave Roger the break. The Swiss quickly produced one of his one-minute holds to consolidate the break and put the pressure firmly back on Simone. Bolelli held but by then there was no stopping our Roger. He held again and then continued to impose his game on Bolelli’s own serve to go up a double break. A couple of aces consolidated the double break for Roger to go up 5-1* and even though Simone held the next game, Roger served out the set 6-2. 2 sets were now in the bag, we needed one more.

If Simone was going to mount a comeback, this was his last shot but Roger destroyed any hopes the Italian might have had by breaking him immediately and following that up with a blink-and-you-miss service hold to consolidate and go up 2-0*. Bolelli got on the board with the next game but then Roger took the next three games to get a double break and go up 5-1* leaving it to Simone to save himself with a service hold. The next game was full of unnecessary drama caused by multiple bad line-calls but ultimately Simone held, forcing Roger to serve for the match. Roger’s serves didn’t let him down and he took the final set 6-2 to win the match. Here are the match stats.msThat first set was not a good performance from our champ. He leaked errors, never found rhythm and had a hard time getting a read on Simone’s serves. I’m sure the strange finger issue, which might have been a bee sting (?) wasn’t the cause of losing that set but it definitely distracted him during it. Once he got the break in set 2, his tennis came back to life. He played more freely and as he began to pick up the pace. He grew more confident while Bolelli couldn’t sustain the high level he started with. What was good about the match was that Roger got better and better with each set in all departments; net play, returns and service games too. He was so superbly aggressive, it was a lot of fun to watch. Here is a link of the amazing dropshot he hit, a tiny highlights with match-point clip, a link to a clip of his presser and also the presser transcript. And a little preview video as well which you should watch 🙂

Roger+Federer+2015+Australian+Open+Day+4+q91d9ohHIlhxUp next for Round 3 is another Italian player, Andreas Seppi, who had a very good win against Jeremy Chardy and is coming into the match with confidence. Roger has a positive 10-0 H2H against Andreas and in those 10 matches he has dropped only one set so theoretically Roger should be able to win this. They haven’t played each other since 2013 Shanghai so it will probably take a bit of time for Roger to re-figure him out. It should be noted however, that the finger-pain mystery wasn’t really solved, at least not that we know of. Roger had a good practice session today with Severin Luthi and Stefan Edberg and his finger didn’t have any taping on it so I am going to hope that the strange pain was really a one-time issue. EDIT: I just noticed a tiny tape on the finger on another practice photo but I am still optimistic about it being a small insignificant problem. Roger’s match is the last one of the Day session at the Rod Laver Arena. Only hours to go! C’mon Roger!

 

***Photos are Getty Images from Zimbio.com and stats are from the Australian Open site***


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Roger kicks-off his 61st consecutive Grand Slam

Roger FedererRoger 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.

f_190115_federer_22Judging 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.stsYen-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.

f_190115_federer_24Lu 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***


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Federer fights his way into the final 4 – for the 10th time in a row

http://www.foxsports.com.au/tennis/majors/roger-federer-staves-off-strong-challenge-from-jo-wilfried-tsonga-to-book-australian-open-semi-final/story-e6frf4nc-1226560421123#.UQCt-lZwFnIAfter winning his Round 4 match, Roger Federer said it would be an interesting challenge playing 7 5-setters in 2 weeks. Well the tennis gods heard him because they granted his wish last night. Given Roger’s form coming into the match I had predicted the Swiss would win it in 3 maybe 4 tight sets. I was wrong because he won it in 5. And there were two simple reasons why that happened.  First, Roger’s form of the past 4 matches didn’t hold and second, Tsonga clearly had done his homework, came up with a different strategy and brought his A-game.

Now obviously Roger’s form faltering was partly due to Jo-Willie himself. Till last night the Maestro had faced off against players ranked in 46, 40, 43 and 15. While they were significantly more formidable than the opponents his fellow top 3 faced, they were not the top 10 men in tennis. Federer’s preparation going into the Australian Open was to practice and not play any warm up tournaments. Meaning he hadn’t played in Doha, Abu Dhabi, the Hopman Cup, Chennai, Sydney or Kooyong  to get some experience against his fellow superstars of the ATP. He had played Tsonga and Delpo in the South American exhibition last year but even that was over a month ago.

In the meantime, it was clear that with a new coach, http://www.australianopen.com/en_AU/news/galleries/2013-01-23/201301231358935040297.htmlTsonga had made tweaks to his game and tactics. To start with Jo served well as he usually does. He approached the net often which he is also comfortable with. What he has improved are his speed and court coverage (perhaps a direct result of shedding some weight in the off-season?) and his returns. As Federer himself said in the post-match interview, he hit some great serves in the range of 205-210 km and Jo kept putting them all back in play. He played aggressively; testing Roger’s defensive skills and making FedEx create extra shots with acute angles.

For Roger, his first serve in particular let him down, especially in the first set; he only got 55% of them in. He double faulted in each of the first 3 sets and hit only 6 aces compared to Tsonga’s 20. For the first time this tournament Roger’s serve was broken and he also conceded two sets (he hadn’t dropped a set till this match). His break point conversion was back to a miserable 22%. Not all of it was bad though. He won more points at the net which is not a surprise. What is interesting is, despite having serving issues he led Tsonga on points won off both first and second serves. And while Tsonga had more winners, he had more errors too, tipping the final count in Federer’s favour; Federer won a total of 169 points to Tsonga’s 164. It was also crucial that Federer won both tie-breaks. Somehow when it was clutch time, the Swiss found his inner champion and pounced to take those sets. Here are the stats.
AOQF
The match was topsy turvy from the start. Given the dip in Roger’s performance and Tsonga in scintillating form, the two were very evenly matched. For a change, Roger faced a player who is as quick between points as he is. I personally am a fan of less time in between points, not just from a fan’s point of view but the players as well; I think it’s easier to maintain concentration and rhythm, but that’s just my personal opinion. Regardless, the fact that neither player took much time showed in the stats. Despite being a 5-setter with 2 sets ending in tie-break, the total match time was 3 hours and 34 minutes.  The roller-coaster ride they took us in was evident from the scores with Roger taking sets 1, 3, and 5 and Tsonga taking 2 and 4. Federer won, 7-6(7-4), 4-6, 7-6(7-4), 3-6, 6-3.

http://www.australianopen.com/en_AU/news/galleries/2013-01-23/201301231358935040297.htmlIn Paul Annacone’s interview he mentioned that Roger can play a lot of different styles of tennis at a very high level. As the sport has become more homogenized, his diversity and ability to adapt and adjust allows him to bring additional skills to the court that many others don’t have and have trouble playing against. Against Tsonga, a man who has played him 11 times already, he had to bring out the entire armory of shots at his disposal, especially since his first serve was failing him. But I believe it wasn’t just his tennis skills that saved the night. In the end he dug deep into the reserves of his extensive experience, grit, determination and self-belief. He got broken much more than he broke back but he stayed calm, focused, cool and collected from beginning to end.

I did have a sneaky feeling though, that when they headed into the 5th, Federer would pull this one out of the fire. This is what separates the top 4 men from the rest of the top 10, 50, 100. 5-setters need that additional something to get over the finish line, that extra bit of concentration and a 6th gear to take it up a notch. So when he broke Jo to go up 3-1 I had an inkling that the match might turn for the Swiss. Despite Tsonga’s attention waning, and Roger getting into the zone, the Frenchman fought valiantly against both Federer and himself to get the score to 5-3 saving 4 match points. But finally, the Maestro had the 5th match point on his own racket and he finished it off at the net with a smash. Game, set, match, Federer.

The two shared a warm embrace at the net and looking at the pictures one wouldn’t know who won. I think especially after the South America Exhibitions, they’ve gotten closer and the net hug was with genuine affection. Showing true class Federer style, he waited for Tsonga to pack his bags before walking out together, chatting and smiling. He gave yet another glorious interview to Jim Courier before signing the camera and waving goodbye, leaving his fans exhausted but happy.

“Fedonga” bromance continues across oceans from South America to Australia

“Fedonga” bromance continues across oceans from South America to Australia

Next up is Andy Murray, who is yet to be tested. His draw turned out to be a bit of a joke in the end. Whether this means he is fresh and ready to slice and dice Roger in straight sets remains to be seen. It also depends on Roger’s recovery and if he can find his first serves again. He’ll need them against Murray, one of the few active players with a positive H2H against him. For now though he can relax, and enjoy the fact that he just reached his 10th consecutive Australian Open SF and his 33rd Grand Slam SF – both obviously new records, breaking the ones he set himself.

When I saw his draw 13 days ago I said “Reaching the SFs will be a bonus and reaching the final will be icing on the cake. If he actually wins it will be the stuff tennis lore is made of.” I still stand by my statement. I am already very happy with Roger’s progress so far, but I obviously want him to do well and go deep in the tournament. We’ll just have to wait and see and hopefully get to see some great tennis from the Maestro while we’re at it. Allez Federer!


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Roger keeps his Grand Slam quarterfinal record intact

http://www.theage.com.au/sport/tennis/peerless-federer-knocks-over-another-cocky-challenger-20130121-2d3kf.htmlennis-20day-208-2021-20130121223119270057-620x414Where to begin? If Roger Federer’s Round 3 match of the Australian Open was a Masterclass, then the Round 4 match was a near religious experience. Federer was in god mode. His forehands were majestic off both wings and his backhands continued to find the sweet spot. The Swiss’s serves zoomed in on target and he was a ninja at the net, silent, fast and deadly. And those were just his tennis shots. Shots alone don’t make a tennis god. For that you need to be a master tactician, reading your opponents play before they know it themselves; you need to have bursts of tremendous speed, cat-like reflexes, the stamina of a horse and a ballerina’s balance. When all stars align, these ingredients come together to make one perfect tennis player. And tonight 22 year old Milos Raonic from Canada, seeded 13 in Melbourne, had the misfortune to face off against a peRFect Roger Federer.

As expected, the entire match was a serve-dominated one. There were short, quick points, usually with a one-two punch. To be fair, big serving Raonic held his own. In the first 5 games of the first set, both men held their serve will equal ease. In the 6th game, serving to go up to 3 all, Raonic suddenly faced 2 break points at 15-40. An ace and a service winner took it to deuce before Federer had another break point. 2 excellent serves and a brief rally later Raonic held. The set continued in the same vein till the 10th game. With Raonic serving to make it 5 all, he double-faulted for the first time, giving the Swiss a break point at 30-40. This time Roger didn’t hesitate and caused Raonic to attempt a forehand volley which found the net. The Canadian was broken and in minutes Roger took the first set 6-4.

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/day-in-pics/january-21-2013/roger-federer-reacts-during-australian-open-tennis-tournament/articleshowpics/18116321.cmsIn the second set, both players showed some high quality tennis. 4 of Roger’s 6 games were love holds, with the 4th one taking only 59 seconds. Neither of them provided any break point opportunities for the other and it was inevitable that the set would have to be resolved through a tie-break. Again everything went according to serve the first 6 points at 3 all. After changing ends Federer was able to get a good read on the Raonic serve and lured him into a brief rally. It culminated with Roger taking the point with a backhand down the line. FedEx then held his own serve to go up 6-3. Raonic saved a set point with a service winner but couldn’t save the next one as Federer took the set with a forehand winner down the line followed by a roar from the Maestro.

Before the start of the 3rd set, Roger put on an undershirt just like he did in the match against Tomic. This shirt change drew whistles from the crowd as an amused Mirka looked around the stadium. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-01-22/roger-federer-and-milos-raonic-shake-hands/4477254But for Raonic, that shirt change might have been what extinguished any hope of resurgence. The Canadian was snuffed out by the Swiss as he broke his young opponent immediately in the first game of the set and then held serve to go up 2-0. Being two sets down and a break down in the third set seemed to weigh on Raonic as he lost focus. He started committing errors and was broken again for Federer to go up 3-0. While Federer was serving to go up 4-0, Raonic was finally able to get him to deuce for only the first time in the match. But any sniff of a potential break-point was immediately eradicated by a 207 km ace from Roger, his fastest of the night. By then Roger’s confidence was sky-high and he continued with creative shot making while Raonic committed more and more errors. Credit should be given to Milos that he did try to surmount a fight back and ultimately won 2 games in the set. But by then the writing was on the wall. Federer served it out to win the set at 6-2. He won the match in 113 minutes, 6-4, 7-6(7-4), 6-2.

The stats for this match were insane for Roger. He lost only 12 points on serve (5 on his first serve and 7 on his second). His first serve points won were a staggering 90% while he won 93% of his net points. He hit 14 aces (to Raonic’s 19), committed only 1 double fault and offered no break points the entire match. He even converted 3/7 break points which is very good for Roger as we all know.AOR4Let’s also not forget that some records were set with this match as well. With this win, Roger’s streak of reaching consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinals stretches to 35 now. He’s reached 39 Grand Slam quarterfinals in total. This also keeps his record of never losing to players born in the 1990s intact. He is, as of now, the only man left at this year’s Australian Open who is yet to be broken. That is how good his serves are at this point. His matches with Paire, Davydenko, Tomic and Raonic took 83, 119, 118 and 113 minutes respectively – meaning he still hasn’t spent over 2 hours in a single match so far. The word ‘clinical’ doesn’t do this performance justice but I am running out of adjectives so it will have to do.

At this late stage of the tournament, the seedings of players almost don’t matter because they’re all so close to one another, unless there have been major upsets in the early rounds to allow unseeded players to sneak through.  Federer was given the toughest draw of the top men and, as luck would have it, all the seeds have held in his quarter, no upsets took place. Meaning that up next for the Swiss is 7th seed Tsonga who has been quietly cutting through his draw like a hot knife through butter. He’s dropped only one set so far and has maintained consistent form throughout his first 4 matches.

Pink Power!

Pink Power!

This quarterfinal is bound to be the toughest test yet for Roger. A lot depends on day form for both men, particularly for Tsonga. If Tsonga brings his A-game aka Wimbledon 2011, Roger will have a fight on his hands. On the other hand, if the Maestro’s sublime form continues I can imagine this being over in 3 tight sets, maybe 4, in the Swiss’ favor. It’s bound to be exciting and will cause us fans to hyperventilate as usual. But it’s another night match so perhaps Pink Power will propel Roger to the semifinals at the Australian Open. This brings me to my last point as I leave you to ponder these ridiculous stats. If the Meastro reaches the semifinals on Wednesday it will be Roger’s 33rd Grand Slam semifinal and his 10th consecutive Australian Open semifinal. Enough said.


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Draw of the Australian Open 2013 aka Federer’s draw from hell

So here we go. With only 3 days to go before the Grand Slam of the Asia Pacific kicks off, the build-up to the Australian Open has reached a fever pitch as the draw has just been announced. And unfortunately for us, Roger Federer has been handed the worst draw possible. With Nadal out of the Australian Open, the question was which half Murray would end up in. And just like the US Open last year, he’s on the Maestro’s side of the draw. Not only that, the Swiss will have to face a string of tough competitors which might be even tougher considering he has had no match experience coming into the Open.

RFAO2013Draw

Federer’s half of the Australian Open draw

First he faces upcoming rising star, the mercurial Benoit Paire in Round 1. Then he squares off against Davydenko in Round 2 (Davydenko is coming off as the runner up in Doha); once through that, it’s none other than Tomic who is returning to form as well, showing that 2011 wasn’t just a fluke for him. If he handles Tomic, that will only brings him face to face with Raonic in Round 4. He faced off against Raonic 3 times in 2012 and every time Roger lost the first set before scraping his way back to win the match. Should he win all these matches, Tsonga is waiting for him in the QFs unless Gasquet, Bellucci or Haas stop Jo in the process. And even if they do, Roger would not like playing them either. He barely defeated Bellucci in Basel last year and Haas defeated him in the Halle final in 2012. Meantime Gasquet just won Doha a week ago.

And then as we know, if Federer gets through these rounds intact, he will face Murray in the SFs. I see no problems for Murray till perhaps the QFs against Delpo whom he hasn’t played in a while. But Delpo has never bothered Andy, their H2H is 5-1. So I expect Murray to sail through to the SFs. At that point, it will depend on day form and how tired Roger already is. The only silver lining I see is that Tomas Berdych is not in Federer’s half but as I outlined above, he has plenty to worry about. If he reaches the final it will already have been a Herculean effort especially considering Djokovic’s draw. Here is the complete draw if you want to take a look at the big picture.

For me, I at least want Roger’s QF record to remain intact. Reaching the SFs will be a bonus and reaching the final will be icing on the cake. If he actually wins it will be the stuff tennis lore is made of. But that’s what Roger does best, create legendary tennis stories. The next fortnight will be excruciating but hopefully we can make it through and keep our faith in our hero. Allez Roger!

RFAOPractice

Roger practicing at the Australian Open