Phew, what a crazy match this one was! Before the match yesterday I thought I'd spend more time in this post talking about the Rosol Nadal thriller and how it opened up the draw even further as I fully expected Roger to routine the Frenchman in 3 straight sets. Clearly that wasn't to be the case.
Enter Julien Benneteau…
Even though Roger lost the last time these 2 played at the Paris Indoor Masters, I thought the Roger of the first 2 rounds was going to show up and school Benneteau but mid way through the first set it was apparent Fed was in sleep mode, making errors, looking disinterested and generally playing in a lackadaisical manner. Benneteau isn't renound as a threat at the top level, he's consistent in all areas but he's ranked down at 30 in the world and hasn't won a title at ATP level. After Roger dropped the first set I thought Fed in 4 was a done deal and it looked like it was going that way after he secured an early break but oh no he decided to hand it straight back and let Benneteau right back into the set. At 6-5 Roger had 3 set points only for Benneteau to save them with big serving and crunching backhands. The tie break started badly for Roger as he lost the first point and Benneteau held his nerve to take a 2 set to love lead. It was crazy, 2 sets to love down in the third round of a slam on his favourite court, practically unbelievable.
Wake up Roger
Even though Roger was still well below par and down two sets to love, I still felt like he was in the match and it'd only take a couple of points for his game to click and Benneteau's level to drop.
@deanoUnplugged Fed in 5.
— Jonathan (@peRFectTennisUK) June 29, 2012
In the third Rogers forehand suddenly came to life and he was able to dictate play for the first time in the match, he broke twice to take the set 6-2 and I thought from that point onwards he would produce more of the same to pull off the comeback in 5 sets.
4th Set Torture
After moving up a gear in the third, I thought Roger would win the 4th comfortably, perhaps for the loss of only 1 or 2 games. It looked possible when he had Benneteau at 0-40 early in the set only to waste all 3 break points and give the Frenchman another confidence boost just as he was on the verge of cracking. This set was awful to watch as Roger was walking such a fine line, he allowed Benneteau to come within a game of the match at 4-5 and even slipped to 15-30 at 5-6 before taking the 4th into another tie breaker. The only good news was Roger was serving well under pressure which I think saved him in the breaker, he got off to a good start with a mini break, only to lose it, he then had another and lost it. He then had set point at 6-5 only for Benneteau to save it with an ace. Anyway, just watch it below!
This breaker was exceptionally tense, you felt like Roger was the better player but he was being wasteful and allowing Benneteau back in. In a tie break it's almost a lottery and Roger was flirting with disaster throughout it. When he finally won it, the relief on my part was huge.
5th Set Formality
After Roger won the 4th set breaker I knew the match was over for Benneteau. If he was going to win it had to be in 4, he was looking tired and Roger was finally finding form and had gained a lot of confidence leveling the match up.
Roger got the early break and by this point Benneteau was physically drained, he received treatment at the changeover for an injury and after that Roger breezed through it in 26 minutes to take the match 4-6 6-7 6-2 7-6 6-1.
Oh my God, it was brutal. Bit of luck in my side maybe. I fought till the very end. I tried in the third, fourth and fifth just to stay alive – in the fourth it was so close, Julien was playing amazingly. When you're down two sets to love you have to stay calm even though it's hard because people are freaking out. You obviously don't have many lives left out there and you just try to play tough and focus point to point. Indoors is not what we're quite used to on grass and I'm happy I got this one out of the way
What does this match tell us?
Well once again some Fed fans are never satisfied, even after he pulled off an immense comeback some people were saying this is bad and whenever Roger goes to 5 early in a tournament he loses. I think that's bollocks. Sometimes Roger deserves criticism when he plays shit matches, but this one wasn't, these are exactly the type of matches that signify Roger is playing great stuff, he managed to pull this match out of the bag and fight his way through and that's why he has a chance of winning this tournament.
This is just one of those bad matches/close calls that every player has in a tournament and if they are able to get out of them then their confidence is at an all time high and it bodes well for the rest of the tournament. How many times have we seen Nadull pull through matches he should have lost to end up winning a slam? Countless.
This match tells us Post US Open 2011 Roger is still here and able to produce the goods when it matters.
Predictions vs. Malisse
After going 5 yesterday, I fully expect Fed to come through this one in straight sets. He's 9-1 in the H2H and hasn't lost to Malisse since their first meeting back in 1999. Those of you who have followed Roger for a while will remember they met at Wimbledon in 2001 and that match went to 5 sets but I can't see that happening.
Malisse is talented and made the Semi's at Wimbledon 10 years ago but he's 1 year Rogers senior and now Roger has all the confidence of his win against Benneteau I see JesusFed turning up and teaching Malisse a lesson.
Rosol Defeats Nadal in 5 Set Thriller
This post wouldn't be complete without mentioning the epic match on Thursday between Lukas Rosol and Nadal. This was such a great game to watch and Rosol played the match of his life.
I found this match great for 3 reasons, Dull lost, Rosol intimidated him, Nadal used gamesmanship to the max and showed his true colours yet again as you can see in the video below.
Video removed 🙁
I'm so glad this was broadcast on global television for everyone to see what a complete ass Nadal is and how he employs every dirty tactic in the book to try unsettle his opponents. Time and time again I've said Nadal is a cheat and how he comes across in Press Conferences isn't the way to draw any conclusions because he's heavily media trained and it's easy to give the answers people want to hear so he appears all humble. The guys a tennis fraud, I appreciate his athleticism and intensity but it's about time Journalists and blind worshipers stopped pandering to him and realised he's not the ambassador for the game everyone thinks.
What makes it even sweeter in this instance was that Rosol knew exactly what Nadal was trying to do and used it to his advantage, he zoned himself in, you could see the fire in his eyes and in that fifth set you could tell his sole focus was to beat Nadal. I personally think Rosol knows Nadal's true colours and made it his mission to prove to people that dirty tactics don't always triumph. That fifth set was trance like tennis and the way he served it out was just epic. By the end of it, it was Nadal who was intimidated and it was poetic justice.
Oh and it also means Roger won't have to get past him in the final. Allez!