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 in an Empire State of Mind ;)

https://twitter.com/usopenThere are too many awesome New York songs I could’ve picked from to start my post but I’m resisting the urge so at least allow me to have the title! In any case, we’ll get started with what’s most important; our champ is back in action in NYC! Roger Federer came into the US Open seeded 7, the lowest since Wimbledon 2003. If you didn’t know that information before, I’m sure your commentators reminded you 3746738 times during the match. As we know, Federer is on the same quarter of the draw as Nadal, making it 4 times in a row this year alone for them to meet each other in the QFs; Indian Wells, Wimbledon, Cincinnati and now US Open. (Meanwhile, Murray is yet to play Rafa this year – why do you hate us tennis gods?). But before yet another Fedal QF can happen, both have to get there through 4 rounds. Up first for the Maestro was Slovenian player Grega Zemlja, ranked 62 in the world.

The match was originally scheduled for prime time night session on Day 1 but it got rained out (of course). It got rescheduled to the day session of Day 2 instead. It was quite windy which caused problems for both players. Roger kicked off the proceedings by immediately double faulting to give Zemlja a point but then took the next 4 points and the game in under a minute. He then had 2 break points on Grega’s serve but wasted them both and soon it was 1 all. The first set stayed on serve although while Zemlja had all sorts of problems with the wind and double faulting and quite a few errors, Roger held quickly and efficiently. Roger was very aggressive and was timing his forehand particularly well. He kept pushing Grega and it seemed a matter of time before he would break the Slovenian. Serving to go up to 4 all, Grega could manage only one point before committing 3 errors in a row and getting broken. Roger then held to love for the 3rd time and took the set with an ace in 25 minutes. Here are the stats for set 1.set1In the second set, Zemlja was under pressure right away. He saved 3 break points but Roger took the 4th and looked to be in total control. Grega’s shots continued to land out or find the net while Roger served and held brilliantly. Grega held for two more games but in his next one he got broken to love, or rather he broke himself with two successive double faults (he had 5 in this set alone) and gave Roger the lead at 2-5*. Roger varied his serves with slice serves, a high kick serve and a bodyline one. Zemlja had no answers for any of them and Roger took the second set 6-2 in 23 minutes. Here are the stats.set2In the third, Grega picked up his game somewhat and tried to engage in more rallies. They stayed on serve, Roger much more comfortably than Grega. In Grega’s 4th service game he offered Roger 2 break points. https://twitter.com/usopenRoger converted on the second and it seemed like the writing was on the wall for the Slovenian… or was it? Roger was serving to consolidate his break but lost his concentration, and despite having 2 game points he found himself at deuce and then provided Zemjla’s first beak point of the match. Roger saved that one and the next but on the 3rd after an intense rally the Swiss got broken and we were back on serve.

Roger seemed angry and irritated and barked at the linesperson “what are you looking at?” Clearly the maestro was in a mood. Maybe he was angry with himself for his concentration lapse, or the wind, or because he had rushed trying to finish this but the question was could he calm down quickly and take back control. Meanwhile, buoyed by this new found confidence, Zemlja had a solid service game with 2 aces to go up 5-4* taking a lead on the scores for the first time. But unfortunately for him, the Swiss had calmed down by then. Roger refocused and held to love as if the previous awful service game hadn’t happened. Zemlja’s next service game was crucial and tightly fought till Roger got a break point opportunity at 30-40. For once, Federer converted right away with a gorgeous forehand and wrestled the control of the match back to go up 6*-5. There was some fantastic serving and net play from Roger and soon he had 3 match points. Grega saved one but a Federer forehand volley sealed the deal. Roger won the third set 7-5 in 45 minutes. Here are the stats from the 3rd set.set3It was a strange match to be quite frank. The wind made it tough and both players tried to be very aggressive. The goal seemed to be to keep the rallies short. Zemlja’s 9 double faults in the match certainly didn’t help him and it was difficult for both of them to find any rhythm. But despite that one blip in the third set I see mostly positives for Roger. He served well overall with 12 aces and provided no break points till that third set, though it would be better if he got more 1st serves in. He had more than double the amount of winners compared to his unforced errors and his forehand in particular was lethal. The stat that stands out to me is the net points won. He came to the net 21 times and won 20 of them. I’m sure we will see this lessen as he comes up against players who return much more effectively but it was great to see that he recognized this tactic would work in this match. He came to the net repeatedly without fear and it was a good opportunity to get some match practice with net points. His movement seemed better to me than the last few tournaments as well. Here are the overall match stats.CapturesssInterestingly, right after the match he went straight to the practice courts. When asked about why he did so in the press conference he said “Just [for] rhythm. Hardly had any rallies today. Decided to go and just work out some more on the practice courts.” His next opponent will be the Argentinean Carlos Berlocq, ranked 48 in the world. When asked about him, Roger said “We know each others’ game pretty well, so we know what to expect.” You can take a look at the press conference and read the transcript here. It was a long presser and I highly recommend you take a look 😀

Before I end the post here are some Fedtastic stats. By playing this match Roger has now equaled Wayne Ferreira in the record of most consecutive Grand Slams appearances at 56. That’s 14 years of participating in every single Grand Slam continuously. This is also his 58th Grand Slam appearance in total; he is 3rd on the all-time list tied with Lleyton Hewitt and Jonas Bjorkman. He has now won his 911th career match (out of 1,120) and this was his 258th Grand Slam match win (he’s the record holder) and 65th US Open match win, tying him with John McEnroe in 5th place.

Last but not the least I’ll leave you with this clip of the fantastic interview of Roger by his old friend and rival Andy Roddick. And here are Roddick’s afterthoughts on the interview and on Federer. Both clips reminded me how great Andy Roddick was for the sport itself; tennis still hasn’t quite found a replacement. So I’ll end with a shout out to Andy: We miss you and wish you all the best. Hope to see you more in the future!

***Photos from https://twitter.com/usopen


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Redemption

http://www1.skysports.com/tennis/news/12110/8874270/tennis-rafael-nadal-beats-roger-federer-in-a-cincinnati-classicI love tennis stats. Stats and numbers give the sport a foundation, a baseline and a scale of measurement. “The ball was out by 2mm”, “his fastest serve was 220km/hr” or “he won in straight sets”. But then once in a while, even a stats junkie like me recognizes that there are some matches you can’t measure because the sum is greater than the parts. There are variables like passion, drive, sweat and heart that cannot be quantified. If all you know about the Cincy QF match is Rafa Nadal defeated Roger Federer, 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 then I feel for you because you truly missed out. I also feel bad for those who could only follow scores online. Because in each game of each set, when the scores went from 0 to 15 to 30 you just saw the numbers change. Those of us who watched the match on our screens, we didn’t see numbers, we saw moments of magic and beauty with every shot.

As the sun set in a splash of fiery orange across the purple sky, the stage seemed set for an extra special encounter. Only hours before, the world # 1 and 2, Novak and Andy, bowed out simultaneously at the QFs of a Masters tournament that is on their best surface. But looking back one could claim it was almost destiny because what unfurled on the court seemed to turn back time. It took us back to when Roger and Rafa ruled the world and Novak and Andy losing at the QF stages didn’t necessarily cause shock waves. The tennis gods seemed to clean the slate and give us this match circa 2005-2008, that was vacuum sealed to stand the test of time.

They came into the match having a polar opposite year and so far this has been Rafa’s year by a mile. No one can touch him, none of the top 8 except for the Monte Carlo win by Novak. Andy has been lucky that he hasn’t had to face Rafa but he’s the only top 8 player who has been spared (so far). Meanwhile, Roger is having a bad year by his standards. As of this coming Monday he will fall from 5 to 7 in the rankings. He has been having back problems that have interfered with trying to make any progress or get proper match practice and his confidence has taken a hit in the process.

So when they made it to the QFs, this time more than ever before, the odds were clearly in Rafa’s favor. Yes this was a hard court tournament but Rafa is as of now, unbeaten on hard courts this year and Roger has been having problems no matter what the surface. Suffice it to say most expected a straight sets win for the Spaniard. As long as Roger put in a good fight I knew I would be happy.

http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2013/aug/17/roger-federer-rafael-nadal-us-openThey came out to thunderous applause; Roger won the toss and chose to receive. Rafa held comfortably but it took Roger 4 deuces before he was able to hold at 1 all. He then had 1 break point opportunity in Rafa’s next service game but some good serving and Rafa’s forehand helped Rafa hold serve. After that, both players began to find their groove. Roger served beautifully and had a love hold to go up 2 all. After that all of Roger’s 4 service games had a loss of just one point each. They both used similar tactics of trying to find each others’ backhands because let’s face it, their forehands are lethal. Rafa has been using his extreme spin lasso whip forehand effectively the whole year but Roger was the player to watch this entire set. The infamous Federer forehand had come to the party and it was glorious. That forehand found the tiniest of corners to nestle in and the slightest of margins to touch.

The set continued firmly on serve with no more break points being offered till Rafa’s 6 service game. Roger kept pushing especially with the forehand creating acute angles all over the court and hammering Rafa’s backhand. The rally that lead to converting the break point was fantastic tennis and you can see just how early Roger was taking the ball. But the set point rally on Roger’s serve was stratospheric, culminating in this ridiculous cross court backhand winner from the Maestro. It made the hot shot of the day.

In the second set they stayed on serve and continued to produce amazing tennis at a very high level. Both Roger and Rafa had 2 love service holds. Rafa had 2 break point opportunities on Roger’s second service game but the Swiss saved them both with tremendous defense. It stayed on serve till Roger was serving to go up 5 all and for the first time in the match Roger had a lapse in concentration. He was at game point twice but Rafa got it back to deuce. Rafa then had a break point which Roger saved with a forehand winner but then Roger provided a second break point. The Spaniard hit a forehand winner down the line and in that instant the momentum shifted. Rafa took the set 6-4 and Roger looked dejected.

Roger was still in the mental cloud in his first service game and before you could blink Rafa had 3 breakpoints. Roger saved 2 but Rafa took the third with a backhand down the line. Roger finally got on the board at 1-3 but then had to fight off 2 more breakpoints with some fine serving before he could go up to 2-4. Finally it was time for Rafa to serve for the set at 5*-3. It seemed simple enough when he quickly went up to 40-0. But facing 3 match points brought out the very best in our champ and he saved ALL of them getting to deuce to with a beautiful forehand that just kissed the line. Rafa went up a match point again but Roger brought it back to deuce forcing a backhand error from Rafa. An unfortunate net cord from Roger gave Rafa his 5th match point and this time he took it with a controversial winning forehand down the line. Controversial because apparently it was out and had Roger challenged the score would have gone back to deuce and then who knows what might have happened. But Roger didn’t challenge and thus ended a glorious match that belonged to Roger for the first half and Rafa for the second and in the end, a few key points, some inches here and there and a net cord made the difference. Here are the match stats.MatchStatsBy the end of it, everyone was blown away. Not only did everyone realize how close the match had been, but more than that, it was thrilling how high the quality was throughout those 2 hours and 13 minutes. This was a Fedal match for the ages. No one expected this kind of fight from Roger but he proved everybody wrong and for the first time in a long time I heard even the commentators say something complimentary about Roger.

Roger was understandably down in the presser but it wasn’t due to sadness or helplessness. It was frustration at being so tantalizingly close and I think that’s the kind of ‘down’ I am fine with. That means he’s right there, he knows it was within reach and knows his overall strategy and tactics were working. Instead of quoting his presser I am linking it here along with the presser video clip because you should definitely read it in its entirety.

I think he can head to the US Open with a lot of positives. All three Cincy matches were important and each was a building block for the next. Kohlschreiber allowed him to get back into match practice, Haas tested his nerve and resolve to get back up from being down a set and a break and he needed both those matches to build up to unleashing his entirely weaponry on Nadal. I will go as far as to say I think this is the best match Roger has played this year. Yes I know it’s a loss but this match had vintage Federer who matched his skills against Rafa at his ferocious best. He made Rafa run, scowl and sweat and almost pulled it off. He came into the tournament after a miserable summer. Yet with one match he redeemed himself, shut up the critics and haters and and sent out a warning to everyone that it is dangerous to count out the 17 time Grand Slam champion. He may be down, but he’s by no means out.

I hope this is a turning point for Roger. If he can continue this momentum who knows what can happen. If you don’t believe my opinion, check out Rafa’s post match interview. In a way, he was in the best position to gauge Roger’s performance from across the net and as far as he is concerned, if Roger continues to play this way this rankings drop will revert back very soon.

Good luck in New York Maestro! That crazy, wonderful city has always shown you some love. Maybe Arthur Ashe Stadium will be graced again with you holding a 6th US Open. I can always dream right? And believe the impossible is possible? I know I can because you taught me that :D. Allez!http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/sport/tennis-federer-unfazed-by/780828.html