Wow, well matches that come with a boat load of hype rarely live up to it but I thought this one was pretty special as Roger showed yet again his class defeating Bernard Tomic 6-4 7-6(5) 6-1 to move into the 4th round at the Australian Open.
The Australian press had been hyping this match up all week and with Tomic talking up his chances it was definitely the talk of the town on Day 6 of the Australian Open.
Pre match, I wasn't sure what to expect, I thought it'd be closer than last year but I figured Roger would want to stamp is authority here and show everyone what he's made of. I ended up predicting the scoreline pretty closely ( 6-4 7-6(5) 6-4 was my call) but the match was actually quite a lot closer than that. Let's take a look:
First Set – peRFect Start
Roger is one of the best, if not the best, front runners in the game so when he broke Tomic in the very first game it was a dream start. As usual he came out the blocks pretty fast and his timing looked to be on song right away. His first serve found accuracy early and he was soon closing out the first set 6-4 without really facing any trouble on his own serve.
Tomic hit some nice shots but Roger just came up with the goods when it mattered. The Aussie did well to save 3 set points on his own serve to make Federer serve for the set though and that was a sign of things to come.
Second Set – Tomic Fights
After winning the all important first set (Roger is 59-2 I believe when he wins the first set in Melbourne) I fully expected Fed to pull away and start toying with Tomic but it was the Aussie who found his feet on Rod Laver.
To be honest I've not seen a lot of Tomic, just the 3 matches he's played against Fed and a couple from Wimbledon back in 2011 but his second set performance impressed to me tonight. He absorbed everything Roger threw at him, saving 6 break points with some huge clutch serving and firing back with his own power that actually saw him dominate quite a lot of the rallies.
If it wasn't for Roger's magnificent defense and own mental prowess then this set could have been very different. Whilst watching it felt like Roger was wasting break point after break point which was becoming a little frustrating. Time and time again Tomic came up with a big serve then hammered a forehand winner off Roger's chip return to stay alive. I thought Roger played a little passive on the returns but Tomic was really playing without fear despite the intensity and pressure. Something that bodes well for the rest of his career.
With a bunch of wasted opportunities and Tomic leading 6-5 I felt like it could be one of those Fedal like sets where Roger creates a ton of chances and then loses it at the end. He held comfortably to make the breaker though but soon found himself a mini break and 4-1 down.
With Tomic serving well he could have easily streaked clear but Roger used all his years of experience to steady the ship and got the mini break back when Tomic hit wide after an absorbing 28 stroke rally. Two serves later and Federer had set point at 6-5 which he converted at the first time of asking.
I'd have to say this was probably the best set of the tournament so far, it was intense especially for a match so early in the tournament, it had almost a second week feel to it. Tomic wouldn't back down and it's probably the most aggressive I've seen him play. He showed that he could push Roger back and make him the guy who has to defend but the Federer serve yet again made all the difference when he needed it to.
Third Set – The GOAT has the final say
After such a close second set it was impossible to call the third set, could Tomic keep up the pace or did Federer have another gear to find?
I was slightly concerned when Roger put on vest under his polo, as it brought back memories of back problems at Wimbledon, especially considering it was over 20 degrees but I needn't have worried as he showed his GOAT credentials yet again saving a break point in his opening service game and then pulled away to lead 3-0 and with that the match was done.
Tomic's resolve had been broken and he lost serve again to fall behind 5-1 and Roger served it out with aplomb. GOAT.
Overall we both played a great match, Bernard has had a great run and he really got the best out of me tonight, so I hope he can keep it up, I really wish him the best, you've got to expect the unexpected and Bernard's got the tools to do that. The court was playing a tough faster when we played last year so it allows him to play a bit more aggressive and he's a big guy with a powerful serve.
Federer yet again shows his mettle
For me this was almost another Roger 3.0 type match, he wasn't playing at an unbelievable level throughout but he held firm, didn't drop serve and came up with 5 or 6 moments of genius including two of the sweetest backhand half volleys you will ever see.
After a tentative opening I thought Tomic really showed that playing aggressive tennis can pay off and it nearly won him a set. I figured he'd be passive like always tonight and that'd cost him big time but he went toe to toe with Roger and definitely gave him something to think about. In the end though resistance against the GOAT is futile and Roger's skills and mental strength proved too much.
Roger showed in the tie break why he has the best record in them of all time fighting his way back from 4-1 down and somehow finding the right shot at the right time to silence Tomic and take an unassailable lead which was very pleasing to see.
In terms of raw numbers it makes good reading with Federer hitting 46 winners to 20 unforced errors, 11 aces, along with making 69% of first serves and winning 26/30 points at the net.
He also showed that his defense is right up there with the likes of Djokovic and that kept him in so many points. The squash shot forehand is such an effective shot that and he used it to frustrate Tomic throughout the course of the match. Time and time again the Aussie was bossing the rallies only to find himself backed up again with Roger turning defense into attack.
I thought it was a good match overall. I thought the intensity was good. We had tough rallies. The crowds were great. So I really enjoyed myself out there.
Obviously, the result is something I was hoping for, but not sure going into it. So I'm just really pleased that the outcome is what I was hoping for. I'm happy also with my playing. I thought I played really good today. That's obviously important looking ahead.
With the win Federer now has 250 ATP Grand Slams wins and behind him sit Connors on 233, Agassi 224, Lendl 222, Sampras 204. How awesome would it be if he made 300 before he retires! Epic.
Predictions vs Raonic
This could be a tough one, Raonic has made good progress so far to say he had a poor start to the year in his warm up events. He has a huge serve, probably the biggest on tour right now so it's essential that Roger returns well and is able to capitalise on break points better than he did tonight.
It's a little bit like playing Karlovic this one and Roger usually comes out on top in those type of matches. Raonic has more off the ground than Big Ivo though so it's tougher but I think Federer will take confidence from tonight and make light weight of the young Canadian.
They've had close matches before in Madrid, Halle and Indian Wells but those were all best of 3. Over 5 I fancy Roger due to his patience, overall fitness and awareness of how to play matches like this.
It could go the distance but I'll opt for a 6-2 6-4 7-6(8) victory for Roger. Allez les suisse!