As a Federer fan it's very easy to only remember matches where Roger threw them away when he had multiple chances to win, the 2 US Open Semi Finals, the Rome final of 2006 and the Australian Open final of 2009 all immediately spring to mind.
It often leads people to think Federer is no good in the big moments and is a mentally weak player but I don't think that's really the case; it's simply because Roger has had some of the most profound losses in the current era that it's easy to overlook the times he's delivered moments of pure genius in hugely important matches.
I think another problem is that trying to sum up Roger's mental game is very difficult to do in just one sentence; he's definitely not the mentally toughest player out there as he can and does have meltdowns in important matches, but at the same time he's probably the most courageous. Djokovic and Nadal display crazy levels of mental toughness when they play but it's almost a different kind to the type that Roger can and has shown over the years.
Nadal's toughness stems from his attitude that on a big point he will simply refuse to miss and track down everything, Djokovic is somewhere in the middle where he'll tighten up his game, stay in the point but still hit his shots with conviction.
But when it comes to Roger his clutch abilities are based around going for all his shots like he has absolutely nothing to lose and people need to remember that Roger has come up with some of the clutchest plays of all time in some of the biggest moments – so I thought I'd remind you guys of a few of them:
French Open 2009 4th Round – Inside Out Forehand
Video removed 🙁
This is taken from one of my all time favourite Federer matches vs. Tommy Haas at the French Open in 2009. The point below is probably one of the most courageous shots of all time; Roger is 2 sets down at it's 3-4, 30-40 when he comes up with a bullet inside out forehand to make deuce before going onto win the match and eventually take home the French Open.
This was just one of the many clutch moments from Federer in the tournament as he had such a tough run in to win the title meeting Acasuso, Haas, Monfils, Del Potro and then Soderling in the final.
And this shot in particular was almost a turning point in his career, had he missed it then Haas would have won the match and his quest for an elusive French would have been over. Wow, was there ever a more important shot??
Wimbledon Final 2009 – Drive Volley
Another classic, this time from the Wimbledon Final in 2009 against Andy Roddick. It's 8-8 in the fifth and Roger finds himself down 15-40. With Roddick possessing such a huge serve it would be virtually impossible to break back. Roger comes up with 2 big first serves and at 30-40 plays a beautiful drive volley to make deuce.
Under extreme pressure most players would let the ball bounce and potentially give their opponent a chance to get back into the point; instead Roger opts to pluck the ball out of the air, an infinitely more difficult shot yet he makes it look easy despite being under extreme pressure. Epic.
French Open Semi Final 2011 – Breaks Back
The best Federer match of the last 3 years that wasn't a final without doubt. It's deep in the fourth set and Roger is down a break with Djokovic serving at 5-4 to take it into a fifth set that could easily go either way. Of course Federer has other ideas and breaks back before taking the breaker with an ace down the T. GOAT.
Masters Cup 2004 – Backhand Down the Line
This one comes from way back in 2004 where Roger met his then main rival Marat Safin in the Masters Cup. This tie break was an epic and eventually Roger prevailed 20-18 to take the match. Insane.
Wimbledon Final 2008 – Backhand Pass Down the Line
I was a bit reluctant to put this one as although it's clutch, Roger of course went onto lose the match so it was almost in vain. But at the same time to play this shot when Championship point down is scarily brave, the margin for error is so small yet he risks it all and makes it.
Masters Cup 2003 – Defeats Agassi
Another one from the archives, this time it's young Roger vs. Agassi in the Round Robin stages of the Masters Cup in Houston, 2003. Here Roger is match point down but comes up with the goods before going on to win the match.
This was a big big moment in his career as he went onto dominate the tournament beating Nalbandian in the next match 6-3, 6-0, then Ferrero 6-3, 6-1, in the semi’s he beat Roddick 7-6(2), 6-2 and in the final rematch with Agassi he blew him off the court 6-3 6-0 6-4. The most talented guy to play the sport period.
Other Notable Statistics
I've said before that Roger's mental strenght is often under rated because he's such a good front runner and was simply too good for everyone in his prime that he didn't really have to show his ability under extreme pressure.
He's shown frailties, but so have most players including the ultra clutch Nadal (AO Final 2012) so he's simply human and sometimes can't focus when it matters. But depsite a lot of trolls claiming he can't win matches from behind he's won 13 matches in his career from match point down.
Matches Federer has won from match point down:
- 2011- Federer vs F. Lopez (1 MP) Madrid R32
- 2011 – Doubles Federer/Wawrinka vs. Benneteau/Gasquet (3 MP's) Indian Wells R16
- 2006- Federer vs O. Rochus (3 MP's) Halle QF
- 2006 – Federer vs. Roddick (3 MP's) Tennis Masters Cup RR
- 2005- Federer vs Ferrero (2 MP's) Dubai R16
- 2003- Federer vs S. Draper (7 MP's) Cincinnati R64
- 2003 – Federer vs Verkerk (4 MP's) Paris R16
- 2003 – Federer vs Agassi (2 MP's) Tennis Masters Cup RR
- 2001- Federer vs Massu (3 MP's) Vienna R32
- 2001- Federer vs Johansson (1 MP) Miami R16
- 2000- Federer vs Ljubicic (2 MP's) Marseille QF
- 2000 – Federer vs Hewitt (1 MP) Basel R16
- 1999- Federer vs Raoux (2 MP's) Rotterdam R32
So there you have it, I'd say Roger is pretty clutch when it matters. He's had a lot of tough defeats and sometimes folded under pressure but like the True GOAT he's always found a way back and come up with the goods.
Got any more Federer clutch moments? Let me know in the comments.