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Federer Clutch

Who Says Roger Federer is not Clutch?

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.

About Jonathan

Huge fan of Roger Federer - I'll pretty much try and watch all his matches from Grand Slam level right down to ATP 250. When I'm not watching or tweeting about tennis I play regularly myself and use this blog to share my thoughts on Fed and tennis in general.

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50 comments

  1. Yeah i remember the Wimbledon one so well..My heart was thumping so hard ,I thought it would pop out..

  2. Hi mate, as you know, I am as big Roger´s fan as you are. And I mostly agree with the article. Thanks for it. The thing is that Roger has a very ofensive game plan, and it depends a lot on the accuracy. As you know, in the crucial moments sometimes is just better to stay in the point and track everything down rather than try to win the point with a genius shot. Specially in the big points, because if you are facing a top player, I mean, Nole or Rafa, probably you are gonna end losing the match.

    I have no doubt that Roger is the most talented player ever. And the best ever. But if you push him to the limit (5 set) you´ll have a chance. No matter who he is playing against. His record in 5 setters is the worst of the top players. And I can recall a match that still is hurting me. His defeat at the US OPEN finals Vs Del Potro. The argentinian was on the brink of throwing in the towel but he was able to turn the match around and winning his unique big title so far.

    Despite this, I am always gonna consider Roger the best ever.

    • Hey Antonio,

      Yeah a few matches have slipped away. Although I think USO 2009 wasn’t due to lack of clutch, it was just a meltdown on his part and the match slipped away. Wasn’t like there were one or 2 big moments that cost him, just that he let Del Potro in and wasn’t ruthless enough.

      Jonathan

  3. Sid TheCookieThief

    Doesn’t Roger have the best tie break record of all current players (even better than Mr.13?) I might be wrong. But if that’s true, then it’s a huge measure of his “clutch-ness”.

    Any guess who Mr.13 is and why I coined that name? 🙂

  4. That look on Djoker’s face after Roger hit that insane inside-in forehand to grab the break, ha priceless. Surely one of my favourite moments from all the french that Roger’s played in.

    I would say Wimbledon 2012 vs Benneteu should also be included in the list. The man had an aching, stiff back and was 2 points from an upset in the fourth set. But still came out with the goods to close that match out in style. Simply, how shall i put it, CLUTCH 😉

    Then there is madrid 2012 final, twice he got broken serving for the match and twice he bounced back to win it, all the more impressive as the opponent was berdshit (a player against whom fed has an unsolved, unnecessary mental breakdown!).

    Now that i look at it, 2012 until US Open was a vintage Federer year!

    • I actually think that at the Us Openhe gave Berdych a pretty good fight despite not playing well like the volley down 3-4 at 15-30 in the 4rth set.

      Being clutch in a match doesn’t mean you’ll always win. Some points on the top of my head could be the 7th BP for Murray at Shanghai in the second set or saving SP in the firts set TB vs Djokovic at the Masters final.

    • correction: in madrid, got broken twice on clutch moments (once serving for the second set being a set down, and later serving for the match)

    • Hey Alvi,

      Yeah Benneteau is a good one, that was a clutch one. Few moments in the Halle match vs. Raonic and also against Del Po in Dubai have just sprung back to mind.

      @Jorge Yeah that volley against Berdshit was epic but he still got broken in the end so almost a waste.

      But I agree with you actually, guess you don’t have to always win to be clutch. Just helps when you do 🙂

  5. How About Bennettau serving 5 5 in the Tiebreak in the 4rth set? He hit a serve that could’ve been an ace, but Roger somehow got it back and Bennettau couldn’t keep the point going. Losing that point would’ve meant serving MP down.

  6. Hi Jonathan

    Lovely to see some of these classic points again – my favourite is definitely the Djokovic match – just cannot warm to that man so always pleased when Roger shows him who is and always will be the No 1 tennis player of all time – also thank you for your other post of all the GIF’s – simply wonderful – cannot wait to see the master walk onto a tennis court – counting down the days – it’s been way too long!!!

  7. In pro tennis, every player will face tricky moments in matches. The guys at the top (Fed, Nadal, Djokovic, Murray) are the ones who win the majority of those points. Roger is the most successful male player of all time which mean he’s won more of those points than anyone in history. Who says Roger Federer is not clutch? An idiot.

  8. Roger sure can be clutch but his clutchness has a big factor of luck involved in it. unlike Nadal and Djokovic who play the percentages and give themselves the best possible chance.roger like togo for it which has mixed results. When he is confident it will be a spectacle ro watch when not it only turns into a disaster .

    • I disagree, to say that Roger’s clutch game depends on luck isn’t true. It depends on his own self believe and commitment to the shot.

      Whether it finds the line, is well inside the line or flies out isn’t related to luck, it’s the fact he went for the shot under pressure and played like he had nothing to lose.

      Jonathan

  9. Federer’s clutch play is very underrated, much like his defense. I can’t even count how many matches he’s played where he’s played clutch and came from a losing situation to win.

  10. This is something that I’ve thought about for a long time, and come to the same conclusion as you have in this wonderfully succinct article. I’ve realised that we’re all quite harsh in Roger- he’s lifted all our expectations SO very high that some off us start throwing remotes the moment he shanks his first backhand. Yes, he’s had some tough losses, but then who hasn’t. And it stands to reason that since Roger has won more trophies than any other player in his era, he will have a proportional amount of losses, some of which are going to by the smallest of margins.

    No one wins the most number of slams, 21 masters 1000s, 6 WTF finals and has unfathomable other streaks like 23 consecutive semis, 9 or 10 consecutive finals without being bloody mentally tough.

    • Cheers Gaurav.

      I think it’s because Roger has had so many profound losses in the later stages of tournaments where they have gone to the wire and unfortunately he came out on the wrong side of things. They stick just as much as the wins for the fans and for the trolls it’s all they can remember with their selective memories.

      Jonathan

  11. Hi Jonathan,
    I may be wrong but I think being match point down and still being able to win the match is more proof of survivor instinct than of being clutch.
    I think the guys who say that Roger is not clutch enough are usually referring to the matches he lets slip away out of his hands when he’s match point up. They don’t point I think to the matches that he’s match point down. They view him as not having enough killer instinct, in other words as being too gentil and soft, which is a quality as such, but doesn’t help you finish off your opponent.
    Besides in that list of 13 matches there’s only two matches in which past-prime-Federer managed to survive a match when being match point down, which seems to imply that his ability to survive those situations has a bit diminished.
    I think for a fair and correct evaluation, one should look at both situations: how many does he win when he’s match point down and how many does he win when he’s match point up.
    Just my opinion.

    • Hey Wilfried,

      Thanks for the comment.

      I know what you mean about the survivor instinct but that and clutch go hand in hand. My definition of clutch is playing freely and like you have nothing to lose despite the scoreboard or the circumstances being otherwise so when you are match point down to turn it around you have to be clutch.

      One match that springs to mind as an example is Djokovic vs. Tsonga at the French, Djoker came within a whisker of losing but he came up with some clutch plays to stay in it. It was fearless tennis.

      I don’t think you can evaluate every match he plays or has match points in, because not all of them have clutch moments in, if Roger wins the first set 6-2 and then goes up an early break then he is front running and not really under pressure so doesn’t have to play clutch. Sure serving it out to complete the match requires nerve but when you are playing well that is more about confidence and momentum.

      Jonathan

  12. Hi Jonathan,
    It was great watching the clips and reliving those moments. When I read the title, my first thought even as I scrolled down was the Haas match of RG ’09. Watching with my heart in my mouth, while my mind told me with quiet conviction that he will pull this off. I went through almost the same emotions for every single match in that tournament till he finally held the cup that was now no longer elusive.

    There are those that say Federer is mentally weak, there are those that have written obituaries on his career; their opinions do not matter to me. Killer instinct comes in many ways, I prefer the resilience of Roger.

    • Thanks Vandana,

      The French Open was such a rollercoaster, pretty much every match was close. Even Monfils was in great form that year, even though Nadal wasn’t there Fed had to earn the title and was probably playing under more pressure seen as though he was favourite.

  13. Roger is ‘feeling’ kind of player, he can be a clutch player when he chooses to be so. His match against Tsonga and Murray at AO shows us proof of his clutch. Naturally this makes his most unrated in this department. His record in tiebreakers are proof of his mental fortitude. Can’t wait for his return, its just way too long 🙁

  14. Anyone else wants to punch this guy on the face or is it just me!!?!

    [Dead link removed]

    • Me first!! good for him that rafa lost 😀 just hope that neither Djoker not Dull wins FO…

    • No Need, Djokovic read it too and decided to school Dull. Monte Carlo has been liberated, the people of Monaco are free from Spanish oppression.

      • Sid TheCookieThief

        [Monte Carlo has been liberated, the people of Monaco are free from Spanish oppression.]

        Ahahahahaha! Best comment I’ve read today!

        Oh my goodness me, I’ve been reading it over and over again and am absolutely laughing hard 😀

  15. One clutch moment that comes to mind is the amazing defense Fed showcased at 3-3, second set, down love-15 in the rotterdam semi final against davydenko. Absolutely amazing!

  16. Yes, I concur that the match against Haas at FO 2009 was probably THE clutch moment of his career. I also firmly believe that his loss to Del Potro during the same year at the US 2009 Final was far and away THE worst performance of his career. I do not rate many of his other narrow losses as poor or disappointing as in a lot of cases just pure unadulterated bad luck defeated him, e.g. two semi final losses to Djokovic at US Open, Wimbledon Final 2008 against Nadal etc. In these matches, Roger played extremely well but was also playing what future history will show as two of the greats in Nadal and Djokovic. No shame here. Also, in 2009 again!! he had Nadal on the ropes in the AO Final but went on to lose. But it’s swings and roundabouts as 2009 was also one of his most historic years. And finally people, one sobering thought: what if Roger HAD somehow won those matches that he narrowly lost? His records today would just be plain ridiculous and as much as we all love Roger, it would be tennis that would be the loser, as dominance does have it’s limits…

    • Cheers Paul.

      AO 2009 is by far and away my worst loss as a Fed fan. USO was just a poor poor match but AO 2009 was just so so painful. Broke Roger’s spirit against Nadal that one, may even mean he never beats him in a slam again.

      Jonathan

      • Yeah it was a long while before I took some time and watched the match in its entirety. When I finally did, it was painful indeed. And then seeing Rog cry during the ceremony, I was done. Couldn’t stop my eyes from welling up.

      • AO is a tourney that I often had to miss in the past due to way too busy jobs… Looks like I’ll never watch this match…

      • Probably a good thing Natasja, it’s not a fun match to watch! Although makes you slightly more battle hardy to some of the losses don’t hurt so much!

  17. My memory always has been terrible so no new moments to pick tbh 😉 Great write-up though! Loved seeing that all (again). Thanks!
    But what I did think after reading it, and has been said by others in the comments to, people have called Roger mentally weak before. I have always thought that was way too harsh. He’s been clutch so many times (with the FO vs Haas as one of the biggest moments yes) and your list proves that even more… And if you’re mentally weak, you can’t play like that. And apart from that, he has a hell of a survivor instinct. Also proven time and time again. Not for the mentally weak either…
    However, sometimes it goes horribly wrong. To me that only shows he’s human. When JesusFed or Goderer are not on court, there is a big chance of Roger the human being showing up… It happens.

    • Yeah guess he’s a very emotional player despite not showing it all that much. When things are balanced he’s clutch, when the scales are tipped slightly he can falter.

  18. Hey Jonathan!
    Great post! As an emotional RF fan, it is really very difficult to forget the tough losses. They always stay there at the back of the mind as ‘missed chances’. Because of those very losses, people (including me) sometimes tend to think he loses focus at important points. But its true that his clutch is very underrated, just as his defense. The Benneteau match at Wimbly last year and the Haas match at RG ’09 are prime examples of his steely nerves and fighter attitude.

    • Thanks 🙂

      Yeah Fed is still clutch, just not as much as some of the other guys. I think Ruan said he’s 10/10 talent, 9/10 physical, and 8/10 mental which I think is a spot on assessment.

      • Are you kidding. To me Federer is the clutchest althete I’ve ever seen. I remember he was the reason I became so obsessed with the trait of clutch. I can name so many times that this article didn’t. To me that’s what Federer should me known for. To the only athlete who I’ve ever been a true dedicated fan and got me interested in tennis my tribute to him and his clutchness: Benneteu as has been mentioned is one. How about to start all of his 5-set combacks. He has Like 7-8. That got to be some kind of record or if not its sure is impressive. Some of the clutch moments of Federer (because I remember everymatch of his that I watch) are numbered below:

        1. I can’t believe no one mentioned 2010 wimbledon 1st round against Falla. I so remember. (If you have not seen it watch the match. Clutch Federer at his best) 1st round wimbledon Federer is returning champ 7 consectutive finalist going in and its first round of wimbledon. Falla goes up two sets on Federer. In the third set its 4-4 Federer serving in 0-40 down 3 break points pulls out of that and wins the set 7-5. Then in the fourth Falla puts more heat on breaks Federer and serves for the match. Fed goes up 40-30 a nince backhand from Fed forces the error goes on to win the 4th set in a tie-break. Then the fith set is just vintage Federer and he crusis to a 6-0 win in the 5th. That one will always stick with me as clutch because he prevetned arguably the greatest upset in wimbledon or even tennis history.

        2. AND especially how did no one mention when Federer played tipsieravic in the third round of the 2008 austrailian open. Federer 2-time returning champ prevents another huge upset. Though it wasn’t a 2 set to love comeback it was 2 sets to 1 down. The most amazing part is in some of the comments Federer is being bashed for his 5-set losses and record. This match he won 10-8 in the 5th.

        3. His two set to-love comeback against Berdych in the 2009 austrailian open. Wins all the last three sets 6-4. Nice

        4. 2007 wimbledon final. This one will stick with me forever because this is the match that Federer inspired for me to like tennis. I remember distinctly Federer going for his 5th consecutive Wimbledon final. When the rivalry was at its best with Nadal. Federer has the edge here though. Nadal pushes it to 5th set. Everyone watching to see if he can end Federer’s great streak on grass. 5th set. Federer saves multipul break points when serving at 1all and 2all. Man that I remember most about this match and Federer. There were those times when he simply kicked it into high gear and no player that ever played could do anything about it. 2-2 then 3-2. Federer has brilliant points to break especially break point to go up 4-2. 3 aces now just like that he is up 5-2. Wins it 6-2 in the 5th.

        5. The whole 2nd set tie-break in the wimbledon 2009 final when Federer saved 4 straight set points. Down 6-2 he has the sickest backhand shot. that my favorite shot of his.

        6. You want to see Federer clutch: how about 2010 quarterfinals of toronto Fed vs Berdych. Fed down 5-2 in the 3rd and comes back to win the match. Great stuff watch that match its all good.

        7. Miami 2005 against Nadal when Federer comes down from 2 sets and a break and break points to go down double break in the 3rd and wins. He so kicks it into high gear there.

        I think Federer is clutch every match. See the thing I love most about Federer is that especially in grand slams he makes it hell for the other guy to beat him. Ever match he loses he still hits amazing shot under pressure. Federer sometimes is the funnest to watch when he loses because the other guy forces to bring out the best in him. When Federer is pushed he keeps uping his game to bring out every tool, shot, ralley, serve he has to fight to win. Like 2012 aus open semi vs Nadal. 4th set the things Federer does. Wimbledon 2008 is a prime example of this. 2009 austrail. Open. 2012 us open vs berdych that backhand slice. 2012 atp world tout finals tie-break. Federer lost it but that set-point he fought off. Watch for that. when an a opponent pushes federer watch how much he’ll up his game and throw everything he has at them. Which is why some of the best matches he’s played he lost.

      • Cheers Bill, great comment.

        You should have written this post 😀 there an awful lot of matches where he’s been clutch. Tipsy one from Aus is a good example, that was when he had Mono too. Also another from 2008 is where he saved all those match points vs Murray with a bad back. That was some epic play.

        Jonathan

  19. Ok i know he didn’t win the match. But he saved 7 match points. SEVEN-freaking-MATCH POINTS!
    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=241203082689244

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