Another peRFect record in the Round Robin stages at the Year End Championship for Federer as he fought off the challenge of Kei Nishikori 7-5 4-6 6-4 in 2 hours and 10 minutes.
It was a battle of who could own the baseline in this one and Roger wrestled control of it countless times only to see Nishikori hit back; coming from a break down in all three sets to provide Fed with a real test. Fortunately Roger found that bit extra deep in the third where he held to love for 5-4 and took advantage of a double fault + forehand error from Nishikori to break serve for the 6th time in the match and cement his position at the top of Group Stan Smith.
With the win Federer goes unbeaten in the group stages for the 9th time, and this his is 13th semi final appearance in 14 attempts. Not bad really 😀
Quick Match Recap
Kei won the toss and elected to receive. Roger held to 30 and quickly moved up a break to lead 3-1 thanks to a biting slice which drew the error.
A double fault to kick off game 5 put Roger in trouble and Nishikori created two break back points. Fed saved both but on the third a serve volley error gave Kei the game and it was back on serve.
At 3-3 Nishikori held two more break points and this time converted to take a 4-3 lead. The Japanese Number 1 then came within 2 points of a 5-3 lead but Fed hit his first winner of the match en route to breaking. Roger then won 12 of the next 15 points to take the first set 7-5.
Into set 2 and it looked like Roger had gotten himself in full control of the encounter; moving into a 4-1 lead. Nishikori had other ideas though, raising his level to get back on serve at 4-4 with some crisp early ball striking. In game 9 at 30-30 the Swiss made a shocking error on a fairly easy put away and Nishikori went onto break serve before serving out the set 6-4.
Set three saw Nishikori apply immediate pressure, holding 3 break points in game 3 only to see Roger hold and then break serve himself for a 3-1 lead. Once again Fed moved into a 4-1 lead only to relinquish it hitting a poorly timed double fault at deuce. That allowed Nishikori to break and hold to level at 4-4.
Momentum looked to be back on Kei's side but a Federer special love hold for 5-4 steadied the ship and put the pressure immediately back on Nishikori. This time his resistance ended, hitting a double fault at 40-30 and Federer made his move to setup a match point which he converted with a well played point.
|R. Federer||K. Nishikori|
|1st Serve %||54%||57%|
|1st Serve Points Won||43/51 (84%)||38/54 (70%)|
|2nd Serve Points Won||13/43 (30%)||17/41 (41%)|
|Break Points Saved||7/12 (58%)||0/6 (0%)|
|Service Games Played||16||16|
|1st Return Points Won||16/54 (30%)||8/51 (16%)|
|2nd Return Points Won||24/41 (59%)||30/43 (70%)|
|Break Points Won||6/6 (100%)||5/12 (42%)|
|Return Games Played||16||16|
|Net Points Won||15/26||10/19|
|Total Service Points Won||56/94 (60%)||55/95 (58%)|
|Total Return Points Won||40/95 (42%)||38/94 (40%)|
|Total Points Won||96/189 (51%)||93/189 (49%)|
Check the volley on the first point of the game at 4-4 in the third. Big point to win.
Thoughts on the Match
Easily the toughest match of the tournament for Federer and we got to see some of the top drawer tennis Nishikori is able to produce. I'm not quite sure what to make of the match itself as it was quite a physical battle with both guys producing some high quality stuff and exceptional movement around the court.
In this one Federer came out on top because he managed to push Nishikori back behind the baseline and force the issue to win key points in the third set. The difference was ultimately because Fed's best moments came when he was pressing to get in front on the scoreboard and Nishikori's best came when he was digging deep to recover breaks of serve. In fact Kei only led the match once at 4-3 in the first set, after that he was always playing catchup, so it would have been a surprise if he'd managed to pull off the win and I think on balance Federer deserved it.
I suppose you could say going 3 sets and 2 hours 10 minutes was unnecessary considering Fed had a set and 4-1 lead but Nishikori did a very good job of fighting his way back into it and coming up with some solid returning (especially on the second serve) when he needed it. Some of the points he played were top notch too including a sweet half volley and a running forehand pass up the line where there wasn't much else Federer could do. As for Fed he moved well and mixed up his play again nicely, it's virtually impossible to hit clean winners on this court so Fed has to work the points from the back of the court and get his opponents in places they don't like to be. He did plenty of that today but Nishikori is definitely a tricky customer to keep on the defensive thanks to his speed and how he changes direction with ease.
The only questions after today are who will Fed play in the semi finals and will the physicality of today play a part on Saturday? In terms of the second one, I doubt it, it could even be a good thing that Fed has been tested before the semi finals so I'm looking forward to it. He now has a day off and plays the night match on Saturday at 8pm against Stan or Murray.
Predictions vs. ?