Well what a mini rollercoaster that one was, for a minute there I thought Roger's missed chances were going to cost him big time but fortunately he stood tall, regrouped and defeated Andy Murray in 4 sets, 6-3 6-4 6-7 (6-8) 6-3 in three hours and 20 minutes to make his 11th straight semi final down under.
What looked like it was going to a routine performance after Fed played flawlessly in the first 2 sets suddenly turned into a scrappy affair in the third as Murray hit back; breaking Roger when he served for the match at 5-4 before fending off 2 match points in the tie break to take the match into a fourth. Fans no doubt had panic buttons at the ready after the distinct lack of mental fortitude from Fed but he managed to hold it together, kept moving well and proved too strong in the fourth finally closing it out with a thunderous ace on his 3rd match point of the night.
He now of course goes onto meet his nemesis, Rafael Nadal, in the semi finals which is a whole different ball game but we'll get onto that later, let's take a look at this match and why it was a good one for Roger.
Quick Match Recap
The first set was always going to be hugely important in this so to see Roger step on court and start timing the ball sweetly from the word go was extremely positive. In no time at all he managed to assert his authority over Murray, breaking to lead 3-1 and holding comfortably to close out the set 6-3. It was a really tactically played set, lots of variety and aggression just when he needed it.
The second set saw Roger again looking imperious on serve breaking to lead 3-2 before moving into a 5-4 lead where he'd serve for a 2 sets to love lead. At this point of the match you could just sense Murray was beginning to find his feet ever so slightly and it took a really steely service game from the Swiss to close out the set 6-4.
Murray has come back from 2 sets to love down 7 times in career so a win in 5 was never going to be ruled out but when Roger had a break chance in the opening game of third I thought there was no way he'd find a way back into it. Both players traded holds but finally it all looked set to be a clinical performance from Roger after he made a great pickup en route to breaking at 4-4 where he'd serve for a straight sets victory.
At this point however the wheels came off for the master, he looked like a different player out there to be honest, unable to find a first serve and far too much tension in his arm which made his shots tentative and lacking any sort of power. Murray of course broke back before holding and Fed then had to force the tie break.
Like the 3rd set in general the breaker looked to be heading Fed's way when he pulled off some incredible defence to lead 5-2 and then created 2 match points at 6-4 with one on his own serve. Of course though he couldn't close it out as Murray found a way back into it and took it 8-6. Game on.
As far as blows go losing the third set in such a manner was pretty big one however Roger actually regrouped pretty quickly, shaking off a 0-30 in his opening service game to hold before playing a marathon 17 minute game on Murray's serve. It reminded me a little bit of Wimbledon 2012 except it was more with Murray this time, and we saw 10 deuces before Murray finally held to level at 1 all.
I wasn't sure if that was going to be costly but my prediction in live chat that Roger would have one more chance to break at 4-3 in the fourth came good as he finally got the breakthrough at the 10th time of asking. This time around he made no mistake in serving it out, doing so from 0-30 down to take it 6-3. Allez!
|Stats||Andy Murray||Roger Federer|
|1st serves in||89/146 (61 %)||78/122 (64 %)|
|1st serve points won||60/89 (67 %)||61/78 (78 %)|
|2nd serve points won||28/57 (49 %)||28/44 (64 %)|
|Fastest serve||208 KMH||204 KMH|
|Average 1st serve speed||183 KMH||184 KMH|
|Average 2nd serve speed||131 KMH||149 KMH|
|Net points won||17/27 (63 %)||49/66 (74 %)|
|Break points won||1/2 (50 %)||4/17 (24 %)|
|Receiving points won||33/122 (27 %)||58/146 (40 %)|
|Total points won||121||147|
Thoughts on the Match
Well where to begin? Looked like the peRFect match, got a little closer than expected but then Roger managed to compose himself to pull off really what has to be described as a huge win considering recent form and his last few meetings vs. Murray.
It's hard to get really excited about the match itself as Fed vs. Murray isn't such a great matchup in terms of viewing but the circumstances of this one are really good news for Roger. He looked pretty good out there and it's a while since he's managed to look like that against a member of the top 4.
Yes there were some real shaky moments but overall I think Roger played a great match, he was sharp, moved great, had a desire to keep tracking down balls when the point looked over and just looked like he belonged out there which after the last 2 slams was in some doubt perhaps even in his own mind. In fact I'd maybe say his ability to stay in some of the rallies with court coverage won him the match today, it just gave him that added dimension. Sad in one sense when you look at the bigger picture of how tennis is played now, but brilliant on the other to see him moving freely without fear of aggravating the back.
The level of aggression Roger displayed throughout was also noteworthy along with his all round serving and the fact he took a pro active approach to finishing points off when he had chance. He's just so much better when he can transition from defence into attack quickly and explode out of the corners when he needs to.
In fact the only times where he did come unstuck like in the tie break were when he played too passively, it allowed Murray to step in and hit offensively which made defending impossible as the shots were just too close to the lines. So it's fair to say the gameplan he had out there when he put it into action was near peRFect. Just those tense moments where he reverted to comfort zonerer and chipped the ball rather than hit with conviction cost him some potentially big chances. Luckily they didn't come back to haunt him and winning pretty much fixes everything.
As for Murray in my view he was just beaten by the better player, but the way the press in the UK have positioned this one is as though the guy was severely hampered and never expected to win before they stepped on court. Perhaps he deserves the Victoria Cross and Knighthood for putting in such a brave performance. I don't think he returned as well as he can but Fed just stepped it up on serve and made sure he dictated winning it fair and square.
Predictions vs. Nadal
I think if it was anyone else waiting for him in the semi final then this tournament would now be an out and out success regardless of what happens next match, but of course his nemesis awaits and he is severely overdue a win against the Spaniard. It is almost do or die time here in terms of this matchup. It's been like what? 100,000 years since he last beat Nadal in a slam? 😛
The big problem is I'm not ultra confident he can do it, heart says yes, head says no kinda moment for me but history does suggest Nadal has a big upper hand here. I do have a small glimmer that Fed can produce something but I really think he will have to reach new heights mentally to get it done.
The fact he kinda struggled to close it out today against Murray is a little bit of a negative in my view, as you just know Nadal won't be as forgiving should he get a route back into the match. He's a fighter so any missed chances from Roger means he will be made to pay and missing a match point on your own serve in a tie break is suicidal.
Roger is 10/10 talent, 9/10 physical and 8/10 mental. Nadal is 7/10 talent, 10/10 mental and 10/10 physical so whilst their total scores are the same the mental department is perhaps 80% of the sport which is why Nadal has come out on top so many times and the exact reason Roger has to do something special out there. It will take great execution and infallible forehands and extreme mental strength if he's to make the final.
I can sense Nadal has given a few fans renewed hope after getting pushed by Dimitrov and having a blister on his hand, but I don't think you can be fooled by that, this guy is an animal and he will spill blood his own blood or that of the opponent on court to win. In some ways Dimitrov has warmed Nadal up for this encounter, not exactly great news. And if ever there was going to be a time when he's physically out of it it'd be the 2009 Australian Open when he came into the final after an epic with Verdasco and we all know what happened there so don't get excited about him not serving so well due to a blister, come Friday it will be game on. Really it's fully up to Roger to make this happen so he really will need to find that bit extra in the clutch to come through otherwise it could be another painful loss.
But what is the point of being a fan if you can't back your own player? I know Roger has the game to win, it's a question whether he has it in the mind. Maybe after 2 big wins he can get it done, maybe he believes he can win and the Edberg effect is more than just fan and press talk. Either way we're going to find out.