A winning return to competitive play for Roger Federer as he overcame qualifier Jurgen Melzer 7-5 3-6 6-2 6-2 at the Australian Open.
Not the simplest of matches for the four-time champion but he fought off the ring rust to book his spot in the second round after 2 hours and 5 minutes on the Rod Laver Arena court.
He'll next face another qualifier, Noah Rubin, who beat his fellow American, Bjorn Fratangelo, in 5 sets earlier in the day.
Quick Match Recap
Federer won the toss and elected to receive. Melzer held to love with Roger managing four shanks to kick things off.
The Swiss quickly levelled and love service games became the norm as Melzer fired down another to hold for 2-1.
At 3-2 the Austrian fashioned the first break point of the encounter and converted to lead 4-2. The World Number 300 then had a game point for 5-3, but Roger saved it and broke back on his second break point. Roger then held to love for 4-4. At 4-5, Roger again held to love and reeled off 12 points in a row to break and serve out the set 7-5. A speedy turnaround.
Into set 2 and Federer's streak continued, breaking to love for a 1 -0 lead. The break was consolidated but at 2-3 Melzer came up with the goods to break back. That saw momentum swing in his favour and he won the next three games to take the set 6-3.
The match was now finely poised, but Federer's serving helped him get onto the front foot as he broke to lead 3-1, and despite some Melzer pressure later in the set Roger held for 5-2 and secured the second break to take a two sets to one lead.
Set 4 started with a Federer special: 3 aces and a 1 minute and 1-second hold. A further two aces in game three put the Swiss 2-1 up, and he broke through to lead 3-1. That gave Roger the breathing room he needed, and he began to play more confidently, stepping in on the second serve return and he was able to break again at 5-2 to book his spot in Round 2.
|Match Statistics||J. Melzer||R. Federer|
|First Serve % In||83/111 (75%)||66/103 (64%)|
|Win % On 1st Serve||47/83 (57%)||51/66 (77%)|
|Win % On 2nd Serve||15/28 (54%)||20/37 (54%)|
|Net Points Won||11/19 (58%)||16/24 (67%)|
|Break Points Won||3/4 (75%)||7/9 (78%)|
|Receiving Points Won||32/103 (31%)||49/111 (44%)|
|Total Points Won||94||120|
|Distance Covered (M)||1757.5||1688|
|Distance Covered/pt. (M)||8.2||7.9|
Thoughts on the Match
An interesting match this one. I expected Fed to win in straights but Melzer, battle hardened from qualifying, came up with some sweet ball striking to make it competitive and at one set all the match was wide open.
Roger was able to make his first serve and forehand count, though, and despite not playing in his usual free-flowing style he was the most consistent player over the course of the four sets, and it was enough to get the job done.
Melzer has always been able to crack flashy winners but he looked a bit tired after the first couple of sets and midway through the third I thought Roger was able to take control and play a lot better. He looked quite tentative early on; he later said he was a bit nervous, and you could tell in his movement and the way the ball was coming off his strings.
Overall I'd say the win is a big positive, not entirely convincing but it's easy to forget this is his first competitive match since Wimbledon! We got patches of Federer brilliance mixed in with a few losses of concentration, but on a day when Wawrinka, Nishikori, and Cilic all got pushed to five sets, it's hard to have too many complaints.
And like Roger said, even if he'd have lost it wouldn't have been the worst result in the world as at least he's back on the court. It's too easy as a fan to let expectations spiral out of control when we're accustomed to seeing this guy win 99% of his matches. Winning in style is what most fans want but after six months out it's all about finding his feet, playing solidly for 4-5 months and getting himself back into form. Based on today I think he'll be a contender in any match he plays in Melbourne, but it's going to depend on his fitness and consistency over the course of five sets at to how far he makes it into the draw.
Predictions vs. Noah Rubin
Next up is Noah Rubin who defeated Bjorn Fratangelo in 5 sets. I've never seen the American play but having just watched a few highlights on YouTube I think Federer will have an easy day at the office.
It's Rubin's best slam based on results after he defeated Benoit Paire here in the first round last year but other than being a solid player he doesn't look like he'll have the skillset to take on Federer. I'll pick Fed in 3: 6-2, 6-4, 6-2.