Well, he made it! Roger Federer is into his sixth Australian Open final after seeing off compatriot Stan Wawrinka 7-5 6-3 1-6 4-6 6-3.
One of the weirdest Federer matches I've watched in a while, and it certainly wasn't high on the enjoyment scale. But Roger came through after 3 hours and 4 minutes to keep up his 100% record against Stan on hard courts. In making the final the Swiss becomes the oldest man to make a slam final since Ken Rosewall at the 1974 US Open; he's also beaten three Top 10 players en route to the decider and has two days off to rest up for Sunday's showpiece.
Quick Match Recap
Federer won the toss and served first, holding to 15 before Stan matched him to level. It was a cagey start from both players, and Roger was the first to fashion break points, three of them in fact, but Wawrinka dropped the sledgehammer on serve to hold. The Swiss Number 1 then had two chances of his own to break, but Roger responded in kind to hold.
At 5-5 the set looked like a tiebreak would decide it but not before Wawrinka had another break point which was again saved by Federer. However, in game twelve Roger managed to string a few return points together and broke to take it 7-5.
Into set 2 and Wawrinka's level dropped as he rued the loss of the first set, this allowed Roger to capitalise, and he broke for a 4-2 lead and went on to serve out the set 6-3. At the sit-down, Stan left the court in tears for a medical timeout on his knee which was strapped when he returned.
It looked like Stan was struggling to put pressure on his right leg, but after holding to lead 2-1, the Lausanne native found another gear as he broke and then reeled off the next four games to take the match into a fourth. Roger was looking increasingly flat in his game with both his serve and groundstrokes lacking penetration Wawrinka broke at the start of the set four. Roger was soon back on level terms though helped by a Stan double fault, and both guys traded holds for 3-3.
At 4-3 Roger made deuce on the Wawrinka serve but more powerful hitting gave the Stan the hold, and he broke in the next game, serving out the set to love to force a fifth.
This time it was Federer's turn to leave the court for treatment, and he returned to hold his opening game comfortably. Stan however still had the upper hand, and he held break points in both game three and five which Roger somehow saved with great defence. After missing his chances, Stan double-faulted on break point to give a 4-2 lead to Federer. No more comebacks here as Roger coasted through his two service games to take the match 6-3 in fifth.
|Match Statistics||R. Federer||S. Wawrinka|
|First Serve % In||86/143 (60%)||89/135 (66%)|
|Win % On 1st Serve||62/86 (72%)||56/89 (63%)|
|Win % On 2nd Serve||33/57 (58%)||32/46 (70%)|
|Net Points Won||34/50 (68%)||11/27 (41%)|
|Break Points Won||4/9 (44%)||4/12 (33%)|
|Receiving Points Won||47/135 (35%)||48/143 (34%)|
|Total Points Won||142||136|
|Distance Covered (M)||1247.3||1320|
|Distance Covered/pt. (M)||4.5||4.7|
Thoughts on the Match
So where to start with this one?! It started out just like any other Fedrinka match with some quality shot making from both, but after Stan's medical timeout it all got a bit awkward to watch. So while the result is sweet, actually watching it unfold wasn't that enjoyable. It was tense, but it had a subdued vibe (a bit like the 2014 final when Nadal took his medical timeout), and I thought Fed looked a little sheepish in his celebration and his on-court interview before Courier perked him up a bit.
The first two sets were fairly competitive; Roger sneaked the first one after looking tense early on, then Stan got passive in the second and found himself two sets down. But after he returned from his medical timeout the match turned around, Stan started going for his shots and Roger was totally off his game. I guess he thought Stan was toast as he looked defeated in the second set, that saw him lose his focus, and when he realised he was still very much in a match, it scrambled his mind.
Combine that with the fact he hadn't been serving well anyway, it didn't give him much margin for error in his game and Stan was able to dictate once Federer's groundstrokes lost their sting. From midway through the fourth set till breaking in the fifth Roger looked low on energy and not spritely in his movement at all. Fortunately, he held it together in the fifth and got over the line thanks to some loose play from Stan.
So the good bits? Winning obviously 🙂 , the way he saved the break points in the fifth with awesome defence and the fact he beat a top 5 player over five sets. I do think he got lucky with how Stan handed him the break in the decider, but he took advantage of it and didn't look back. Perhaps it doesn't matter exactly how got there; the fact he was even in the semi-finals is quite bizarre, now he's in the final and hopefully in good enough shape to make a fist of it on Sunday. Allez Roger!
Predictions vs. Nadal
Next up is Roger's old nemesis Nadal who defeated Dimitrov in a thrilling 5 setter. It was an extremely close match which either player could have won but it was the Spaniard who came out on top.
Based on Twitter a large chunk of Federer fans are hating the idea of a Fedal match, whilst the neutrals and casual fans are relishing it 😆 For me I'm not really in either camp, I've never been a fan of Nadal's game as a viewer and a lot of their encounters in recent times never caught fire but the 2009 final is actually one of their better matches in terms of quality so hopefully Sunday's match delivers on that front.
Heading into the final both guys have played two five setters, but Nadal has been on court for 19 hours vs. Roger's 14. So it will be interesting to see if that makes a difference, the 2009 final says not but that's 8 years ago and both guys are outside of their prime. History also shows that Nadal owns Federer's in Grand Slams off grass, with a 3-0 record against him in Melbourne. So Rafa has a lot of things in his favour – he's got the mental edge, he's got the matchup advantage, he's 6 years younger and has just beaten a guy with a similar-ish game to Roger who is younger, fitter and faster. It doesn't sound like a great deal for the Swiss on paper. But who knows, I've got it about 53% – 47% in Nadal's favour heading in. There's probably enough in the court for Fed to play the way he needs so it will be a question of whether he can execute on the night. See you sunday 🙂