Hey all, where to start? Not the dream end we all hoped for at this years Australian Open as Roger went down 6-4 6-7(5) 6-3 6-7(2) 6-2 to Andy Murray in the semi final. Never fun to see Fed lose but this is just one of those matches where winning was always an uphill task.
As usual I had high hopes for Roger going into the match, he'd played seamlessly up until the quarter finals and then showed tremendous patience and endurance to get past Tsonga to setup a semi final with Murray. All that boded well for a great match as far my thoughts were concerned but for one reason or another it just didn't happen and in the end Roger did well to take it all the way to 5 sets.
Murray the Agressor
I said in my prediction post that Murray would definitely look to play aggressive and that was clear from the get go as he really went for his forehand. I also predicted that Roger would be able to make that work in his favour but I got that part terribly wrong as Murray dominated all the baseline exchanges in the first set, broke early to lead 2-1 and then never looked troubled on serve.
Usually it's Roger bossing the rallies but on slower courts like the Rod Laver Arena Plexicushion he couldn't break down Murray's defenses and ended up being the guy who was getting pushed around from the back of the court.
It was a worrying start and with hindsight you can see that the first set was one of those pivotal moments in the entire match as by falling behind it meant Roger was forever playing catch up and it had set the tone of what was to come.
Federer Responds in the Tie Break
After dropping the first set without too much in the way of success I felt like Roger had to start doing something differently and mix up his play to assert his authority in the rallies to get back into it. Not only that, he especially had to take cuts at the ball on the Murray second serve to get some cheap points, much like he managed to do at the end of the second set in the Wimbledon 2012 final.
He didn't quite manage to start dominating but he did up his level and serve way better throughout the second. It was a tactical set really, Roger had to do a lot of running which isn't really his game especially after the 5 sets with Tsonga but he managed to keep hold it together and take it into a breaker.
Roger's record in breakers this week has been peRFect and that didn't change tonight as he found his game just at the right time, and when he got pretty lucky at 5-5 with a sliced lob that Murray could only get a weak connection on he went onto claim the set when Murray made another unforced error. All square.
Murray Dominates with the Forehand
After levelling it up and giving himself a route back into the match the third set was disappointingly all one way traffic for Murray. Any notion of a repeat of the Wimbledon final disappeared at 3-2 when Murray broke comfortably and then never looked back as he served out the set with ease.
It's tough to say what Roger could have done differently in this set other than simply play better. Murray is a more complete player these days after winning the US Open and working with Lendl, he's improved his forehand considerably and he also served extremely well in the 3rd set. That combined took the game away from Roger and at 2 sets to 1 down it didn't look great.
Federer Shows His Mettle
For Fed fans this was the best set of the match, and is just the type of champions response we are used to seeing with Roger when he looks beat.
Murray could have easily streaked away with this set but yet again Roger tightened up his game and at 4-4 he probably should have broken but Murray pulled through. At 5-5 it looked as if all his hard work had come undone as Murray broke him to love to give himself a chance to serve for a spot in the final.
I wasn't feeling like a comeback was on the cards here especially when Murray hit a sweet passing shot to move up 30-15 with Murray grinning in delight. Murray's cockiness caused Federer to drop the F-BOMB and then he upped his level hitting a great overhead and then his best shot of the match, a backhand down the line that kissed the edge of the paint to setup break point. This rattled Murray as he blazed a forehand wide to hand the break back.
Federer's confidence had returned and he completely flew through the breaker, hitting a series of winners in his one purple patch of the match and that made Murray wobble as he took it 7-2 to take the match into a completely unexpected decider.
Final Set – No Contest
Talk about an anti climax. I've lost count of how many times Roger has pulled the 4th set out of the bag and then wilted in the fifth going out with a total whimper and today, unfortunately, was exactly that.
You'd think Roger would be on a high after being on the brink of losing but Murray stayed composed, broke to lead 2-0 and then kept his level above Roger's leaving him no chance.
2-0 quickly between 5-2 and despite Roger saving one match point with a big serve he went long with a regulation forehand to give the Scot the win. Game, set, match, Murray.
Hard really to assess this set, I guess Roger isn't a great 5th set player when it boils down to it. Not by fault of design just he's been a front runner for the majority of his career and doesn't always have that ability to kick on after he's won the 4th set. Happened against Nadal in the 2009 AO final too which also ended 6-2 in the fifth.
Why doe he always lose 5th sets 6-2??
Overall Thoughts on the Match
In terms of the match analysis I think the best word to describe is complicated and one that was of an up and down nature. The level never really got stupidly high and up until the 4th set tie breaker the crowd never sounded that engaged mainly because it was only ever one guy playing well at any one time. Both of them were good in patches and then poor in others.
For me on a personal level, when you've seen Roger lose from holding multiple match points in US Open semi finals then there's no way you can put this match down in the painful losses column.
Ultimately the better man won on the day and that happened to be Murray this time around. As a fan there's no point getting down about losses like this, they happen and it's just part of the sport. I just look at it from the point of view that Roger wasn't playing his best match and he still took it to 5 sets. It's pretty impressive really that he even managed that.
In terms of how the match was lost from Roger's side of things that boils down to a few things:
- The court surface in Australia is pretty slow (it seemed to play way slower tonight, commentators mentioned that too so not just Fed-bias from me) making it hard to hit through Murray's defences.
- Murray served exceptionally well.
- Federer didn't return that well, especially on the second serve.
- And finally Federer wasn't able to find a way to break Murray down, evident by some of the clown drop shots he played in what can only be described as desperation.
A lot of fans mentioned the physical aspect of the Tsonga match was a factor too, I figure that maybe played a part but it's not really a huge factor in my eyes. He might have lacked energy in the fifth but that wasn't the reason he lost the match.
To win tonight Roger had to be the one dictating plays and he didn't manage that for any sustained period. Once he lost the first set he was always playing catch up. He leveled the match twice but just couldn't ever get his nose in front, if he'd won the third set things might have turned out differently but Murray kept his cool and his forehand + serve were solid throughout.
The fact is Roger is never going to beat a consistent ball striker like Murray who also happens to have excellent court coverage when his game isn't quite on. Murray makes it tough to hit winners at the best of times so on a slow court and when you're ground strokes aren't firing on all cylinders he's almost impossible to hit through. It's a bad mix.
Other things that conspired against Roger tonight were he was pretty moody, there were a few moments where he got pissed off with the Umpire and Murray's on court actions. These were all heat of the moment things that he can usually ignore but tonight they rattled him. He doesn't drop the f-bomb that often in matches and this match reminded me a little of the US Open final in 2009, and we all know how that ended. Things like that focus your energy in the wrong areas and can effect your game. It actually made Federer up his level in the 4th but in the fifth he lulled and lost the match.
I'll also talk a little bit about Murray, who whilst I'll never be a fan of, I can't deny he has improved and definitely edged tonights match to finish up the worthy winner. He's improved his forehand and he's definitely better at closing out big matches. I don't think Roger tested his resolve fully tonight but he definitely played a good 5th set when he needed to.
As for the final I think Djokovic will take down the title, he's just too consistent on this surface to the point where he looks almost unbeatable. We may well be entering the Djokovic Murray era but I still think based on his performance over these 2 weeks Roger has a couple more says in the outcome of these types of matches. I said in December/January the US Open is my judgement tournament and that remains the same. There's 9 months till that tournament kicks off though and I'm sure we'll see some stellar stuff from Roger before then starting in Rotterdam.
And hey even in a lost match you still get to see a little bit of poetry 🙂
Looking forward to reading your thoughts on the match in the comments below…