Wow, talk about a topsy turvy match from Roger as he pulled out another great win beating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6(4), 4-6, 7-6(4), 3-6, 6-3 in 3 hours and 34 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.
It was a match full of fluctuations and momentum swings right till the very end, with both players hitting both a number of exceptional winners but following them up with a string of terrible unforced errors. It could have easily gone either way but yet again Roger 3.0 had the final say as he picked up his level in the decider to come through and set up a semi final clash with Andy Murray.
Set 1 – Federer picks up from where he left off, or does he?
In each of his previous 4 matches Roger has won the first game regardless of whether he was serving first and today's Quarter Final was no different as he broke Tsonga in his opening service game to take an early advantage.
It was a great start and almost criminal from Tsonga to lose his serve so early in a match where the first set would be critical. A love hold followed and I was feeling quietly confident that Roger was going to get the job done yet again without really being overly tested.
However, at 3-2 Roger slipped to 0-30 after two simple unforced errors, he managed to refocus and won 3 straight points before Tsonga came up with a great volley to make deuce and then ripped one of his huge trademark forehands to setup break point which he converted to get back on serve.
It was a prime example of what happens if Roger misses a few first serves and Tsonga is able to tee off on his ground strokes. Once the Frenchman got the break the momentum shifted in his favour and he was the guy who was dictating from the back of the court. By this point Roger was looking a little rattled to be honest and when he leveled for 6-6 to take the opening set into a breaker I wasn't sure what to expect.
During their previous 11 matches they had played seven tiebreakers with Tsonga winning four of them so it was bound to be close. Roger started well though, went up an early mini break and that proved to be crucial as he took the breaker 7-4. It was by far his most testing set of the tournament to date and one in which he was broken for the first time. A sign of things to come during this match.
Set 2 – Tsonga Fires Back
The second set was fairly uneventful early doors, both guys were making errors but holding serve without too much trouble until the seventh game when Federer hit a net cord to slip down a break point. Tsonga teed off again from the back of the court and when Federer's forehand sailed long he got the decisive break that shifted the momentum again in his favour.
When Roger's level dips or he starts missing serves / forehands he becomes extremely vulnerable especially against a player of Tsonga's gung ho nature and power. As Roger's level dropped off Tsonga's ground strokes suddenly got water tight and he served out the second set comfortably to level the match up.
Set 3 – Failing to Consolidate
In true Tsonga style after looking like he was about to enter the zone he dropped serve immediately at the start of the third set with Roger showcasing his excellent defensive skills to counteract the Frenchman's huge groundstrokes. Yet again though Fed failed to consolidate the break missing four forehands and losing his serve from 30-0 up. Criminal.
This set in terms of quality was probably the worst of the match and both guys were either hitting great winners or making ridiculous errors. I suppose a tie break was the fitting outcome and despite Roger netting an easy volley he once again bounced back coming up with a genius passing shot and then retrieving at full stretch to force Tsonga into an error that saw him take a 2 sets to 1 lead.
Set 4 – Tsonga Tees Off
After taking a 2 set to 1 lead I thought Roger would be able to streak away and that looked likely when he raced to a 0-40 lead early in the fourth set but Tsonga once again hit his way out of trouble, serving huge and cranking up the forehand to leave Roger no chance.
This set almost had a Wimbledon 2011 feel to it as Tsonga really began to tee off and settle into his own rhythm as he broke to lead 4-2. They again traded breaks but Tsonga clinched the set with a big ace to take it into a decider.
Set 5 – Clutcherer
The fifth set can often be somewhat of a lottery but it was Roger who found his focus and trademark clean hitting when he needed it most in the fourth game to break Tsonga and move within touching distance of the semi final. Unlike the third set Roger consolidated to move into a comfortable 4-1 lead which proved to be unassailable.
4-1 quickly became 5-3 and with Tsonga serving to stay in the math Roger created 2 match points which Tsonga saved yet again with his high risk strategy. He saved a third before holding and making Roger serve it out. Nervous times.
Federer got off to a bad start losing the very first point but once again he composed himself, hit a tremendous backhand, 2 big serves and secured the victory with a trademark overhead. GOAT.
Interview with Courier
It was a tough close, for sure, the whole match was tough and any set could have gone either way, it's tough because you never know what Joe is going to come up with. I hit three great serves there in the fifth set and every time he got them back, and that's what he can do and that's why he remains dangerous throughout a match.
Thoughts on the Match
This is one of those matches that sums up Roger 3.0, a guy who can snatch victory from unlikely situations and win when he's not able to play at his best. In his prime Roger was known for winning matches with out and out genius from start to finish but now he's showing that his composure under pressure can win him big matches too even against a guy that is capable of playing explosive tennis over 5 sets.
The way Roger handled the tension of the fifth set was genius in itself, he moved up a gear and held onto his advantage right till the end. Tsonga looked like he was capable of running away with it after steam rolling the 4th but calm as you like Roger made some adjustments and tightened up his game in the clutch.
When it mattered Federer was able to keep his hitting clean, serve well and use his excellent defensive skills to hang tough in the rallies Tsonga was dominating. For me this signifies Roger's one bad match in the tournament, where he is nowhere near his free flowing best but still manages to come through. We saw it at Wimbledon against Benneteau and we have seen it many times over the course of his 17 slam victories.
History dictates that matches like this often bode well for the later stages of a tournament such as the Semis and the Final. I mean you only have to see how Novak bounced back after defeating Stan Wawrinka in a 5 set epic to see what a win like that do to a players confidence.
Of course todays match could have been easier, after all he was a break up in three of the 5 sets but it also could have been a whole lot worse. Fortunately, Roger was able to bring his best out in the all important tie breakers and play the big points without getting too tight. An all important ingredient of winning close matches.
You can talk tactics, pull off some stasistics about error counts or say Tsonga is still a loose cannon but when all is said and done, there is nobody better in the game than Federer at remaining patient, not allowing inconsistencies to play on his mind and then finally piecing his game together bit by bit to find a way to cross the finish line.
Predictions vs. Murray
Well it's all gone to seedings as far as the mens draw is concerned with Djokovic meeting Ferrer in the first semi final and now Roger facing off against US Open Champion Andy Murray.
Murray has had an easy draw so far and has progressed without dropping a set but with the quality of opposition he's faced that's to be expected.
Murray leads Roger 10-9 in the H2H with their last meeting coming at the World Tour Finals where Roger put in a GOAT like performance to beat him in straight sets.
Roger leads the H2H in slams 3-0 though so I feel he has the advantage going into it, of course Murray can cause problems, as we saw in Shanghai earlier in the year where he took Roger's second serve apart but I feel like Roger is serving exceptionally well this tournament and will take a lot of confidence from the 5 setter he just played against Tsonga.
Murray has yet to be tested and he's played the majority of his matches during the day, the night plays quite differently so it will be interesting to see if Roger can take advantage of that early on in the match to get into a lead.
I have a feeling Murray is going to play extremely aggressive to try dictate how he wants the match to be played but I think Roger might be just a bit too wise for that and will be able to use it to his advantage.
It will be tough match make no doubts about it but I think if Roger puts a high % of serves in play and plays smart offensive tennis there can only be one winner. And that's why I'm going Federer in 4 sets. 6-4, 6-4, 6-7(4), 6-4.
I know what to expect; whereas it would be different if I hadn't played him (recently), he has changed his game around a bit. He's playing more offensive. I'm looking forward to it. Obviously (he’s) a great player … So I'm expecting a tough match, of course.