Roger Federer is one match away from bagging his sixth Australian Open title after defeating Hyeon Chung, who retired at 6-1, 5-2 due to a blister on his left foot.
It's not the way ticket buyers or the players wanted the Semi Final to pan out but the win means Roger has yet to drop a set en route to a showdown with Marin Cilic in Sunday's showpiece which will be a repeat of last years Wimbledon final and Roger's 30th Grand Slam Final.
Quick Match Recap
Federer won the toss and elected to receive. A smart choice to see what Chung had to offer and the Swiss broke immediately for 1-0. Chung was able to fashion a break back point but Roger held for 2-0 to get off to a perfect start and put Chung well behind the eight ball.
Chung got on the board with a hold to 15 for 1-2 but in game five his serve was under more pressure and he was broken to 15. A speedy hold put Roger 5-1 in front and the Swiss sealed the set; converting his 5th set point on the Chung serve to take it 6-2.
Into set two and a love hold put Roger 1-0 in front. Chung levelled to 15 but in game four was broken as Roger hit a sweet backhand pass for 3-1. That was consolidated for 4-1 and Chung then called the trainer for a medical timeout on a blister. Upon resumption after a lengthy delay, Chung held to 15 for 2-4 but unfortunately, four points into game eight Chung was forced to retire, clearly hobbled by his foot problem as Roger won through 6-1, 5-2.
|First serve % in||57%||43%|
|Win % in 1st serve||57% (17/30)||94% (15/16)|
|Win % in 2nd serve||39% (9/23)||71% (15/21)|
|Break points won %||0% (0/1)||36% (4/11)|
|Net points won||0% (0/5)||86% (6/7)|
|Total points won||33||57|
|Avage serve speed||165kmh||175kmh|
Thoughts on the Match
Easy pickings here for Fed and he spent just over an hour on court. Ideal prep for a final? Probably not but there's not much he can do about that so it is what it is. I'd very much bought into the Chung hype after he dispatched Zverev and Djokovic in the earlier rounds but Roger made him look ordinary in the first set. In the first game, Fed chose to hit with big spin and no pace down the middle of the court to see what Chung had to offer. That seemed to almost confuse Chung who looked a bit overwhelmed; I'm assuming he expected Fed to be ripping it from the get-go instead he got some loopy balls he wasn't sure what to do with.
Chung will clearly have been nervous too which won't have helped and Roger took full advantage to break early and from there on the South Korean's serve was picked off at will. One thing that was clear was Chung had absolutely no idea where Fed was hitting his next shot mid-rally and he got caught out a number of times. Couple that with his blister giving him pain when he's forced to change direction quickly and it was never going to end well.
Other than that the match was far too short-lived to really judge how Fed was playing. He served at a mere 32% in the first set which he shouldn't really get away with but his forehand looked solid and he came up with a couple of nice whipped cross-court shots on the run which is a sign he's moving well. As for Chung, he's also hard to judge as we don't know how bad the blister was in the first set. Roger did say he noticed he was limping in the locker room though so it was obviously a pre-existing problem that got worse as the match went on. However, I think his serve looks tin pot at this level and the forehand leaks a few too many errors. But so did Novak's back in the day so all very much a work in progress for him and making the semi of a slam is nothing to scoff at.
Predictions vs. Cilic
So next up is Marin Cilic who defeated Kyle Edmund in straight sets in yesterday's semi-final and as a result, he's going to be very fresh for the final on Sunday. The Croat has had a pretty comfortable draw too, only dropping the one set against Carreno Busta before he went five sets with Nadal in the Quarter Finals. I watched a bit of that match Cilic played very well as he stuck to his guns, yes he made some silly errors overhitting on key points but he could have folded long before Nadal's leg became an issue so it's an impressive win despite it ending in retirement.
Roger leads the H2H by a wide margin and he's won their last three meeting with Cilic's sole win came at the US Open in 2014 where he blew Roger off the court. I know that's the match everyone will be looking at but if you go back and watch the highlights Fed was cooked in that match after going five against Monfils the round before. Not an excuse of course as managing the rounds is part of the sport, but if Fed was moving at 100% then it's not straight sets win for Cilic. Maybe Cilic wins it anyway as he was on fire that year but it would have been much closer. And fortunately, fatigue from the earlier rounds won't be a factor for either guy on Sunday.
As for who wins, I'm not really sure. It has actually been a bit of a weird/flat tournament overall so the first thing is hopefully it's a decent match! You can make a strong case for both guys to be holding the trophy aloft and you no doubt heard Robbie Koenig pick Cilic for the title during the commentary.
For me, Roger has to be the favourite going in and you almost feel like he has very little to lose now, winning two slams last year has sort of got the monkey off his back and he can play with a free mind out there. Cilic can too to an extent but he's not going to get that many chances to add to his major tally so it does add a bit of pressure.
I think the key for Fed will be how well he defends his first and second serve so he's going to have to knock up the first serve % compared to today. Cilic won a tonne of return points at the US Open because Fed was too slow to that first ball and was instantly behind. If he's serving well and preventing Cilic from getting on top I like his chances to take care of his own serve and come out on top at the business end of sets by putting the pressure on Cilic to keep trying to find the lines.
As always let me know your thoughts and predictions in the comments 🙂