ATP Masters 1000Mutua Madrid OpenRoger Federer

Federer fights off rust to defeat Raonic in Madrid

Holaaaaaa Fed fans.

Well we finally got to see Roger back in action after his 5 week hiatus, is it just me or did it seem like he hadn't played for like ever?

Anyway as you are probably already aware he was up against big serving and in form Canadian Milos Raonic. Raonic was coming off the back of a good week in Barcelona beating Andy Murray en route to the semi final so was expected to prove a stern test for the Swiss and he certainly lived up to the billing. He served big and really tested Roger before eventually surrendering 4-6 7-5 7-6(4).

After Rogers extended break I figured he would be pretty rusty and maybe take a few games to really find his groove. The start wasn't as slow as I expected and Fed came out the blocks reasonably well and was able to hold comfortably in his opening service games. He actually served and volleyed from the get go too which was refreshing to see.

Early doors the match was pretty lackluster, both players held easy enough and you were lucky if you saw a rally above 2 or 3 shots. Most points ended with a sloppy error rather than a moment of brilliance and it wasn't until the 8th game where the set came alive.

Serving to take a 5-4 lead Roger played a total disaster of a game, he slipped to love 30, missed an easy volley to give Raonic 3 break points and then fired a forehand wide to hand Raonic the advantage.

Raonic served the set out with ease and it's fair to say the outlook didn't look great for Fed. Milos was playing some good stuff, he was serving huge and his groundstrokes really seemed to fly through the court allowing him to dictate play.

At the same time Federer was playing sloppily, he was always on the back foot and his ground strokes lacked any sort of timing, there were far too many half court balls that sat up asking to slapped into the corner. With the power and height Raonic possesses he duly obliged.

After his shocking service game at 4-4 it looked as though Roger was going to mirror it as he faced more break points in his opening service game of the second set. As usual he found some big first serves to dig himself out of a hole and hold. I think if he'd have been broken in that game the match may well have slipped away from him.

After the shaky opening game Roger managed to start winning more and more cheap points by serving and volleying, despite holding comfortably he was still struggling to make any headway on the Raonic serve, there was a slight chance at 2-1 where Roger had an opening at 15-30 but some huge Raonic groundstrokes shut the door on him easily.

At 5-5 Fed once again faced a break point after leading 40-0. He was actually very lucky to hold here after his volley went deep and just caught the line.

After the big hold Roger went onto break and take the match into a decider. It's kinda weird how sets sometimes pan out, prior to Raonic missing his break point opportunity it didn't look like Roger would be able to break his serve if they played all day. The missed opportunity must have played on the Canadians mind, combined with the momentum of holding saw him lose his serve and the set in the blink of an eye.

Breaking the Raonic serve seemingly gave Roger an adrenaline boost and he started to look more and more pumped up for the match. I actually thought Raonic was a starting to look a step slower but Roger slipped to break point at 2-2 in the decider. Under pressure he saved it when Raonic netted a backhand.

2-2 was soon 3-3 and this time Roger faced 2 break points, yet again his first serve found the corners and rescued him. 3 quick service games from both players took the match into a tie break where Roger pulled through winning 7-4. Fed started strong and was up 4-1 in no time, Raonic had a chance to get back into at 5-4 but blazed an easy forehand long to hand the initiative back to Roger,he needed no second invitation and hit a sweet forehand return to seal the match.

Right now, I'm just playing good tennis and it's a big win because wins like this can create great things,” said Federer. “It was pretty much a big struggle for me tonight but the level is pretty good and I'm happy where I am in the season.

Federer Reflects on Victory

Thoughts on Roger's Performance

The performance tonight is probably best described as average. He looked rusty and struggled to really stamp his authority on the match. But at the same time it was enough (just) to get over the line. I guess the positives are that Roger slowly improved as the match wore on which is clearly a good sign. By the time the 3rd set tie break arrived Roger was actually hitting the ball much better and was able to dictate play a little more with his forehand.

It's important that Roger becomes more accustomed with the surface and starts to strike the ball more cleanly if he is to stand a chance of winning the title.

I appreciated the serve and volley mix up that he threw in, it won him a lot of cheap points. The only time it really cost him was when he moved in behind weak second serves, if he can find a nice balance between staying back and moving in then it could well catch his opponents off guard.

Predictions vs. Gasquet

I think Raonic was a far tougher test than Gasquet can hope to be so I see Roger overcoming the Frenchman relatively easy. Gasquet has all the shots but no mental strength so I predict Roger winning in straight sets. 6-4, 6-4.

Jonathan

Huge fan of Roger Federer. I watch all his matches from Grand Slam level right down to ATP 250. When I'm not watching or tweeting about tennis I play regularly myself and use this blog to share my thoughts on Federer and tennis in general.

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10 Comments

  1. OHHH! I’ve got a headache and my stomach is up in jumbles. Federer looked rusty and I thought we were facing a possible upset. Milos played great and his serve was spot-on. Roger held his nerve on the important points and relied on his net play. Not his best display but a win is a win. I guess Rafa wants to wear grass court shoes and the ATP told him no. More Nadrama. I hope Federer can find his timing better as the tournament continues and his winner/error ratio changes for the better.

    1. Yeah after the 1st set it didn’t look like Fed fans would be leaving the stadium happy! I backed him if it went to 3 though which it did.

      I guess Raonic makes it difficult for timing, definitely a good match to win from the mental perspective though as he lost the 1st set.

  2. Blimey! An excellent spectacle for, if nothing else, aggressive tennis from both sides, albeit broken (possibly, nay, definitely, due to some rocket serving from a certain canadian). Raonic acquainted himself well, I thought, coming up with a game that had significantly more than his serve. Did you see the couple of winners off the smash he hit. Thought he caught Fed by surprise, but doesn’t change the fact that they were terrific shots. AND the backhand down the line flick set point down! This dude can play! I agree, Jonathan, that Fed was too average, but I didn’t think the blue clay looked as “disastrous” as Nadal and Djokovic seem to think. Let’s hope Federer, as he does often, adjusts best and takes them down.
    Also, well played, sir, on this ridiculously quickly written article/reaction. I can only imagine the time and effort required to maintain a blog like this, so keep it up!!

    John 😀

    1. Yeah there were a few nice shots, overall though it was a little dominated by serve so not the best to watch.

      Raonic hit some good shots when retrieving, although I think Fed should have put those rallies to bed. Ended up making Raonic look like a world beater when he hit winners from those overheads and the volley.

      As for blue clay I think it looks good, it didn’t look like either player struggled with movement. And even if they did, why tell everyone about it? It’s going to be the exact same surface for the next match.

      Thanks for the kind words man, I did write it pretty fast! I was just testing really, I think the quality suffers a little bit when it’s rushed though (not that I’m a spectacular writer anyway) so I might not do it throughout the tournament.

      1. Feeling a little curious as to how Fed will approach the oncoming matches. Will it be serve-and-volley? Will he revert to his usual style? I enjoyed the mixing, since the ol’ switch up is seldom seen in the game today. Some great half-volley pick-ups in the match from Fed, so he should be feeling confident coming forward.

        Gasquet, Ferrer, Djoko, Rafa is likely to be the lineup if Fed is to win. Gasquet who has a winning record on clay vs. Roger. Ferrer, who frankly should have at least pushed Nadal to three in Barcelona… Tough draw, by all accounts, so I’m interested how Fed will adapt his game for each match 🙂
        John

    1. Cheers Boojay. I just added a video in where Fed recaps it, he says the altitude makes it fast. Haven’t read the presser yet so dunno if he says that… be interesting to know though.

      It’s definitely the fastest clay court around. Seems to favour big hitters who generate their own pace.

    1. Yeah it was very close! Even in the tie break Raonic had a chance to get back into it but he blazed that forehand long. Luckily like you said Feds serve dug him out of a hole.

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