Whoop! A Huge win here for the undisputed King of Tennis as he took out Kei Nishikori in a swashbuckling 5 set win, coming through 6-7(4) 6-4 6-1 4-6 6-3 to book his spot in the Quarter Final.
The Swiss, in just his fourth competitive match of the year after six months out, showed off his magnificent shot-making and brilliant athleticism (kudos Pierre Paganini) to overcome the disappointment of dropping the first and fourth sets to come through in three hours and twenty-four minutes.
The result means it's his second win over Top 10 players in succession and he's now into the last eight where he'll face surprise Quarter Finalist Mischa Zverev who stunned Andy Murray in 4 sets.
Quick Match Recap
Federer won the toss and elected to serve. Nishikori came out all guns blazing, finding some stunning returns to break before he consolidated for 2-0.
Roger didn't know what had hit him as Nishikori continued making the Swiss's serve look timid as he broke for 4-0 and soon moved into a 5-1 lead.
A love hold then saw Roger finally find some momentum and he was able to recoup one break before again holding to love and immediately putting pressure back onto Nishikori.
The Japanese number 5 does not have a big serve, and Roger took advantage, recovering the second break to restore parity and forcing the set into a tie-break.
It looked like the Swiss's momentum would give him the first set but Nishikori regrouped, and despite trading early mini-break it was he who came out on top to take it 7-4.
Into set 2 and a love hold from Roger for 1-1 showed he was finally getting into the groove on serve. That put more pressure on the Nishikori serve, and in game seven Roger broke through and held to love for 5-3. He went on to take the set 6-4 and now looked in control.
The Swiss then went up an early break for 2-1 in the third and was able to reel off the next four games as Nishikori looked despondent. 6-1, two sets to 1.
I thought Roger was going to run away with things here as his tennis was astounding and in set four, game four it looked for all the world he'd break after a lengthy deuce game. However, Nishikori dug in to hold and then rallied, taking advantage of some loos Federer play to break in game five and send the match into a fifth.
Serving first at the start of the fifth Roger needed to send a message and he produced some high quality serving to lead 1-0. Here he firmly got back control, breaking for 2-0 and soon moved into a 4-1 lead. Nishikori continued to struggle on serve and required an injury timeout for a back issue, but he held on to ensure Roger had to serve things out, which he did in style, holding to love to move into the Quarters.
|Match Statistics||R. Federer||K. Nishikori|
|First Serve % in||100/148 (68%)||107/164 (65%)|
|Win % on 1st Serve||80/100 (80%)||73/107 (68%)|
|Win % on 2nd Serve||23/48 (48%)||24/57 (42%)|
|Net Points Won||29/44 (66%)||19/30 (63%)|
|Break Points Won||7/18 (39%)||3/10 (30%)|
|Receiving Points Won||67/164 (41%)||45/148 (30%)|
|Total Points Won||170||142|
|Distance Covered (M)||2832.2||2917.3|
|Distance Covered/pt. (M)||9.1||9.3|
Thoughts on the Match
Yeah, I think I’m playing better and better. Today over a long period of time, I had to be refocused and playing good tennis. If I gave Kei too many opportunities, he was going to take them. I served exceptionally well tonight, which was key against Nishikori. I’m very pleased there. Rhythm from the baseline is there now. I don’t get surprised any more from the power or the pace. Also the spin’s not the first round like it was against a left-hander. I explained that at length. Maybe that also was more difficult because of that, to find the rhythm. But I’m in the tournament now and you know how the balls and the court surface reacts to my shots and for my opponents what can happen. I’m not getting surprised so much anymore, which is only helpful for the next round.
BOOM! A very impressive performance here from Roger who was able to serve well, move well and play well from the baseline for five sets which is very pleasing to see.
After Nishikori had got off to a great start, Roger didn't let it rattle him and managed to respond instantly after dropping the first set tiebreak. Once he got that rhythm on serve, he was able to play more on the front foot, and although Nishikori is always going to keep you honest from the baseline, he's going to give chances on his serve and Roger took full advantage.
I think most impressive was his movement which has gotten better and better as the tournament has moved on. Today he was getting about the court supremely well, arriving at the ball on time and striking it very well off both wings, in particular, the backhand down the line which caused Nishikori a lot of problems.
Overall just a great match that had a bit of everything (backhand smash, clutch serving, backhand round the net post, great volleys, etc. etc.) and is why we all enjoy watching this guy play so much. Six months out and he's back in a flash playing this sort of tennis. Jaw dropping stuff as Robbie Koenig might say.
Predictions vs. Mischa Zverev
Next up is the resurgent Mischa Zverev who caused a huge upset defeating Andy Murray in 4 sets. Zverev has been in great form since the tail end of last season, and on this quicker surface, he produced some top drawer attacking tennis that Murray couldn't handle.
The last time Federer met the German was at the Gery Weber Open in 2013. I was in Halle for that match, and it was over in 39 minutes with a 6-0 6-0 scoreline. That was the injury riddled Zverev though who went onto slip outside the top 1000, packed in tennis and tried to get a pilot's licence. Since his brother's emergence on tour re-motivated him, he's got fitter, uses a simple game plan that plays to his strengths and has had some great results off the back of it.
Going in Federer is the big favourite, but it will be a tricky match. Zverev will pressure the net and while there's unlikely to be any long rallies Roger will have to take care of his service games and come up with some good passing shots. We saw Stakhovsky trouble him at Wimbledon with a similar-ish style, so I don't think it's a cakewalk. The good news is that he has already played a lefty in Melzer, so it's some form of preparation for the out wide serve on the ad court.
Although today's match was a five-setter, it wasn't the longest or most physical encounter, so hopefully, Roger will hold up well. And that's going to be interesting for the rest of the year to find out how he backs up this big win. I'll pick Fed in 4.