1000th match on tour! A very dominant display from Federer here in what looked set to be his toughest match of the Australian Open so far. Roger certainly passed this test with flying colours and now meets Nadal in the Semi Final on Thursday.
Del Potro has played himself back into form this tournament, and on the evidence of his last match it looked as though he may pose Roger some problems just like he had in the US Open final of 2009. However, just like his victory against Tomic 2 days earlier, Roger came out with purpose and quickly found his rhythm. He started hitting the ball sweetly from point one and after holding his opening service game of the match he immediately broke after Del Potro missed an overhead to lead 2-0.
Another quick service game ensued, and Roger had break point again in game 4, Del Potro dug deep though and managed to hold. It looked as though Federer was going to dominate the opening set and he served for it at 5-3. However, Del Potro hit back and broke to put it back on serve. Roger slacked off slightly towards the back end of the 1st set, and that's what cost him the break. Luckily, he refocused instantly and broke Del Potro again to take the set 6-4.
Federer slipped to 0-30 in his opening service game of Set 2, but managed to recover and hold, I feel this was a big moment in the match, to lose his opening service game after dominating proceedings early on would have been a big blow and could have changed momentum. Fortunately Roger pulled out the good shots at the right time to hold.
At 2-1 Roger broke with a sweet backhand up the line, it wasn't the cleanest of winners, but the placement was perfect and it left Del Potro no chance. At 5-3 Roger served for a 2 set lead, just like he did at the US Open final back in 2009. Fed fans were praying that this game didn't go the same way, but it started in bad fashion, Del Potro challenged Federer's first serve, got a look at the second and quickly created 2 break points at 15-40. This game was epic. Watch the video below to see how it panned out:
This game was absolutely HUGE in the context of the match, had Roger dropped his serve there god knows where the match could have gone, but it would have most likely resulted in 5 sets. Roger saved multiple break points and hung tough in some big rallies. The 20 shot one on the 4th BP was a huge point to win. It's pretty clear this one game alone decided the outcome of the match.
But, no, it was a couple of big moments for me. I really knew how important that game was for me. Particularly in the one rally actually ‑ I think it was before that ‑‑ where I hit a backhand down the line and I hit it on the line long.
From that moment on I knew the match was done, Del Potro had been nullified and knew there was no way back. The 2 set cushion let Roger settle and play freely. The second set turned into a formality and compared to the second set it breezed by as Roger took it, and the match 6-4, 6-3, 6-2.
Verdict on the match
I was extremely pleased with how Roger played today, he never allowed Del Potro to dominate with his forehand and mixed up his play considerably well. The use of the slice and the dropshot were as effective as ever and Roger moved great to really put pressure on Del Potro and move him around the court at will.
When Roger gets into position early and takes the ball inside the baseline he gives his opponents little time to prepare. Del Potro winds up his forehands big time, so when he's having to move his feet out of the way to give himself room to hit the ball he makes more errors and doesn't generate as much pace on it. This leaves Roger to hit winners into the open court.
Variety was always going to be the key to the match today, along with Roger's defense and him getting enough juice on his shots to not get pinned into lengthy baseline rallies. Both forehand and backhand today were on top form, they had decent zip on them and the slice that makes Del Potro generate his own pace worked a treat.
Predictions vs. Nadal
If we thought Del Potro was a difficult match then the draw just got a whole lot tougher. Nadal got past Berdych in 4 sets in a match that took around 5 hours to complete and will now face Roger in a Grand Slam semi final for the first time since 2005.
Berdych took the 1st set on a tie break, was down a break in the second, but broke back and took that to a tie break too, he had set point but put a volley wide and Nadal took the set. The second set tie break was the key moment and once Nadal levelled the match you knew what the outcome would be. Berdych was hitting the ball big, but he's too 1 dimensional, is too reliant on hitting big and lacks the mental strength to produce the goods when it really, really matters. Nadal on the other hand is clutch in these scenarios and runs down balls for fun.
I didn't watch all the match, and from the feedback I got on twitter Nadal wasn't playing that great, I did however watch the last 5/6 games from the 4th and final set and his forehand seemed to be very very dominant. He was also running down balls and whipping passing shots down the line in spectacular fashion like we have seen him do so many times against Federer. This is certainly a worrying prospect if you're a Fed fan.
For Roger to win on Thursday I believe he will have to be at his very best, perhaps even better than his World Tour final bagel beatdown of Rafa in Novemember. Nadal looks to be playing with high energy and intensity, the knee strapping is just smoke and mirrors, so it's essential that Roger brings every shot to the table. If he comes in behind weak approach shots then he is going to get burned big time.
I also believe you don't beat Nadal by making him run from side to side, you must beat him by making him run in circles, and by that I mean making him run left, right, forwards, and backwards. He plays deep behind the baseline, so the dropshot has to figure in the match for me. Even if it costs Roger points early on because he tracks them down, later on they will pay off dividends. I also want to see Roger serve and volley on a fair few points. We saw today how far back Nadal stands on the return of serve. Roger is a much more competent and natural volleyer than Berdych so I think there's some cheap points to be had.
Although what I saw from Nadal today looked fairly strong, it's also not a great indicator into just how well he is playing, Berdych plays a very different style to Roger, and I somewhat feel he plays into Nadal's hands. He plays high risk, boom boom tennis, the kind of tennis that doesn't make Nadal have to think, it just makes him grind, and run. And those are the 2 things he does best. It's ok belting 140Kmh forehands winners, but when he's in position they will come back with just as much on them. To keep up big hitting for a sustained period is nigh on impossible, and the only time I've seen it happen lately was when Tsonga beat Roger at Wimbledon last year. If Berdych had capabilities to drop shot, or move into the net then the outcome may have been different. The only volley I saw him hit was at set point in the 2nd set, and although it was tough, he missed it.
In terms of my prediction, I think Nadal has to be favourite for the match, I'm sure the bookmakers have it this way too, based on past matches and the H2H record. But I'm pretty optimistic Roger can cause the upset, the key to the match isn't clear, but as always it's essential Roger serves well and ensures that Nadal never knows what's coming back over the net. If he can piece his game together and stay mentally sound throughout the match and never lift his foot off the gas then a place in the final should be on the cards. All I know for certain is that it's going to be high drama and my twitter timeline is going to be mental. Until then!