Pfffft another crazy match! I thought after Friday nights antics against Benneteau Roger would come through this one with ease but just like the third round, mid way through the 1st set you knew things weren't right.
Roger Starts Pushing His Forehand
I think it was about the 5th game I realised Roger was moving rather gingerly, he wasn't able to serve at full power and his forehand had zero zip on it.
At 4-3 he called for the trainer and went off court to receive treatment for what looked like a back injury. I was pretty worried by this point as it looked as though Fed was struggling to even move properly. Any forehands on the run now looked impossible for him to reach and his serve was 10-15mph off its usual speed.
At 5-5 Roger was broken and it didn't look like he was moving any better. When he loses sets I don't get overly worried, but when you see him struggling to hit his trademark shots it's of great concern because you don't win tennis matches on grass without a first serve. With Malisse serving for it somehow Roger managed to use every bit of guile and variation available to him to break back. He was totally pushing his forehand into play but was still able to move Malisse around and eventually have enough open court to aim for to finish off points. He even managed to secure the break with a great forehand which was a glimmer of hope he wasn't hurting as much.
How he managed to get the first set into a tie break I'm not quite sure but it truly was GOAT like, too often tennis fans and journalists forget how much of a fighter Roger is, many players would retire or give up but not Roger, he just gets on with the job. He doesn't grab at his back like Murray for everyone to see, or grimace at his box every 2 seconds, he carries on and despite being restricted in movement finds a way to still win points with the tools he has at his disposal.
1st Set Tie Break – Malisse Implodes
I think Fed was a little lucky in the breaker as Malisse totally switched off and made a ton of errors to give him two mini breaks in no time at all. I'm not sure what Malisse was trying to achieve, if he had any sense he should have moved Roger around the court but fortunately he just went for big shots & serves and made a ton of errors.
I think this set was a real big one to win, if Roger had lost it, he may have allowed his back to effect him psychologically and that could have changed the outcome of the match. Luckily he played smart tennis and kept the ball in play and did enough to take the breaker. He still wasn't serving at full speed but the accuracy and placement ensured he didn't hand any of the mini breaks back as he took the tie break 7-1.
Rain Delay Gives Fed Fans Hope
After the tie break the heavens opened and play was suspended, this was a total blessing as it gave Roger time to get more treatment on his back and allowed more time for whatever pain killers he had taken to take effect. I was kinda hoping they put the roof on as it would have warmed the court up a fair bit as the cold air was clearly adversely effecting his injury.
I imagine as soon as play was suspended Roger had treatment from his physio and probably took some more pain killers. Play was halted for around 30 minutes which gave him plenty of time to take a breather and also to get warm. I was even thinking he might play in his jumper for the first few games to try and keep his back heated and not allow the cold to penetrate it and stiffen it up.
Second Set – JesusFed Rises
After the rain delay I had no idea how Roger would play and even though he had the 1 set advantage I was still a little unsure of what was to come. Whatever happened in the delay clearly helped Roger as he was suddenly able to hit with purpose again and whilst he wasn't moving perfectly it was a marked improvement from the first set.
The second set was really all about JesusFed as he cranked up the heat to break Malisse 3 times taking it 6-1 in just 26 minutes. There were some awesome shots in this set from Roger, including the sweetest of full stretch drop volleys to snatch the double break. After seeing him bounce back and now move somewhat freely I was convinced he was getting this match done in 3.
It's never that easy
With a 2 set lead and a bad back you figured Roger would go all out to get this match over and done with in straight sets, the last thing you want is more court time when it's cold, wet and you're not feeling great physically but oh no Roger had other ideas and decided to make sure the crowd got value for money by dropping the third set and prolonging his stay on court.
After Malisse broke to lead 2-0 in the 4th I was praying Roger got back into gear and didn't allow the match to go into a fifth and deciding set. This time he answered my call and broke back when Malisse shanked a forehand, after that he never looked back and served it out, again with a booming ace to take it 6-3.
It's matches like today that clearly prove why Roger is the greatest of all time. He gets an injury in the first set, perseveres and gets through a bad patch to recover mid match and pull out the win. No moaning, no drama. And then to top it all off, he apologised to Malisse at the net about having to take a medical timeout because he knows that it's difficult to play against an injured player. Pure respect. Nobody else in the game would do that.
I don’t know. Look, today I thought was extremely difficult for Xavier. I did apologize to him after the match just for the first set. Not that I had anything to do with it. I know how hard it is playing somebody that is injured.
Predcitions vs. Youzhny
Roger will now meet Mikhail Youzhny in his 33rd straight Quarter Final after the Russian beat Denis Istomin in 5 tough sets. If Roger is able to play without problems with his back, this should be a relatively easy match, he beat Youhzny in Halle fairly comfortably 2 weeks ago and I can't see Youhzny causing too many problems. He's got some nice looking shots but the big points often pass him by and he's very likely to self destruct.
In last year's 4th round at Wimbledon Roger dropped a set against him but I don't see that happening this time around. Youzhny may well be tired after grinding out some tough wins so I expect Roger to come through in 3 sets – 6-4, 6-2, 6-2.
Is the Back Injury a Concern?
If you'd asked me during the first set today I'd have said yes, but seeing how Roger managed to improve as the match wore on I'm not sure if the back injury is something stupidly serious. I think the cold played a part and it's something that needs warmth and a little movement to loosen up. Roger said in his presser that he's not concerned so I hope he's being honest. With a day and a half's rest and some treatment I think he will be able to recover in time. An easy match against Youzhny will certainly help too.
Okay. I mean, way better than a few hours ago, so that’s pretty good. But honestly I’m not too worried. I’ve had bad backs over the years. I’ve been around. They go as quick as they came. But of course I have to keep an eye on it now. I have one and a half days, which is a lot of time, to be quite honest, to work with. Two good night’s sleeps and I’ll be 100% on Wednesday. I’m pretty convinced, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to pull out the match the way I did today.
The Quarters will be on Wednesday so let's all hope Roger is able to come out and play free flowing stuff and get the job done in straights. Allez les suisse!