Boom! Where to start? This match looked like it was curtains for Roger after he fell two sets behind playing some very mediocre stuff only to hit back and overturn the deficit for only the 7th time in his career winning 3-6 6-7 (4/7) 6-2 6-0 6-3.
The first two sets were really all about Del Potro, he came out hitting a seriously heavy ball in damp, slow conditions. He was constantly able to keep Roger on the defensive by consistently hitting the casing off the ball on both wings. I liken it to when Roger lost in Paris to Robin Soderling, also in the Quarters, in 2010. The conditions were similar and so was the way in which Roger was getting overpowered and making costly errors.
Roger lost the first set without making any sort of impression, he struggled for rhythm, served poorly (only making 48% of first serves) and made 13 unforced errors. It was a poor set by anyones standards but it certainly wasn’t the worst he’s ever played that’s for sure. Of course my twitter timeline had the usual cries of injury which again I find ridiculous, Roger had barely started playing before everyone was claiming his serve lacked zip, he wasn’t tossing the ball as high as usual and he wasn’t moving well enough. I am sick of reading all this conjecture during Rogers matches, until he explicitly states an injury is hampering his play then we shouldn’t assume anything. One person starts it and then everyone treats it as golden, yes I know he had troubles in Madrid and Rome but the only facts we have to go on are that he says he is fine and after seeing him go 5 today I’m not going to believe otherwise.
Back to the match and I genuinely thought the second set was the key to the match, if Roger didn’t win it I really thought it was over for him. After Roger broke serve I thought he may just have turned the match in his favour but he played a total clown service game to hand it straight back. The tie break was once again Del Potro hitting big and Federer making uncharacteristic errors. (Something which he’s been prone to all week). A big point at 5-4 in the breaker saw Roger scream shut up to crowd after someone called ‘out’ in the middle of a rally, this threw his focus and he lost it 7-4.
At 2 sets to love down I have to be honest I thought the outlook was bleak, Roger hasn’t come back from 2 sets down since he beat Falla at Wimbledon in 2010 (I do think that stat is flawed because how often does Roger loses the first two sets??) and in reality he wasn’t playing well enough to do so in my opinion but the third set was where everything changed.
In my review of the Goffin match I talked about whether or not Del Potro’s knee injury would factor, now for the opening 2 sets it had zero impact but almost in the blink of an eye the Argentine began to look uncomfortable. His movement around the court was suffering along with the pace on his first serve.
This also coincided with Roger playing far more aggressively and taking the game to Del Potro, perhaps sensing he could end the points much quicker he began to stamp his authority on the match. After taking the 3rd set with some clinical play he upped it again in the the 4th was as Del Potro failed to register on the scoreboard.
The decider wasn’t all plain sailing though, after Del Potro gave up half way through the 4th it was obvious he was saving himself for one last hooray. In grand slam matches it’s often the case a player gets a second wind and one boost of adrenaline can be enough to play through the pain barrier. Roger faced 2 break points in his opening service game, only to save both of them with first class forehands.
After he’d warded off the danger he crucially broke to lead 3-1 with a trademark forehand down the line. That was the end for Del Potro, you always worry when Fed is in these scenarios because he’s not a natural born killer and has been known to let advantages slip but a 4-1 defecit for an injured Del Potro was virtually unassailable.
Was this match all part of the Federer Masterplan?
For the opening 2 sets Roger played very defensively, he absorbed a lot of Del Potros ground strokes and most points ended either in an error or Del Potro hitting one big ball too many.
But did Roger play this type of tennis on purprose? In the early stages he rarely used the slice and hit big top spin backhands constantly. He also refused to come to the net, both in play and behind his serve. In other words Roger didn’t attempt to keep any of the points short. Now was this a conscious decision to take Del Potros legs away? Or was it simply Del Potro playing at a high level?
It’s clear that it helped me he wasn’t in the same kind of form and he searched perhaps for the winner earlier in the rally.
I’m not sure really, I heard Mark Petchey say he thought Roger played the opening 2 sets like he did to drain Del Potro, I’d like to think that because it sounds cool but Roger was very frustrated early in the match and last time I checked he hadn’t been to the Andy Murray School of Drama and Play acting so I’d assume his shouts to the crowd and anger were genuine.
In the end I just think it was Del Potros knee injury catching up with him and Roger finally finding his range enabling him to play a more free flowing style of tennis that allowed him to find his rhythm and take the match away from Del Potro. The pleasing sign for me was Roger looked as fresh as a daisy after 5 sets whereas Del Potro, perhaps understandably looked like he’d done 12 rounds with Tyson.
I play a great match, even the third and fourth set. He start to play much better than in the beginning of the match and I feel his ball more in the baseline. He put me to run a lot in the third and fourth set. He made better match than me after the second set. I don’t have any chance to win until the first game in the fifth set when I had break point. He play well points and he take the opportunity in the fifth set and he win.
Predictions vs. Djokovic
Well we have a repeat of last years epic semi final with Roger taking on Djokovic for the 26th time in their careers.
The Djokovic match on Chartrier was crazy, Tsonga outplayed Novak for most of the match, had 4 match points but still couldn’t pull through. Credit to Djokovic because he played all those match points fearlessly, it’s tough to know what Tsonga could have done differently apart from the 1 forehand error he made. Perhaps he played them too timidly but Djokovic played them with pure aggression.
I can’t see this match being as good as last years as so far both players haven’t found top form (that’s not to say they won’t in the semi but I find it unlikely), I also don’t think Djokovic is playing that well either, he’s had to dig deep to reach the semis against Seppi, a guy who’s outside the top 20, albeit in form, and then against Tsonga, who I’d say that clay is his worst surface.
On the flip Roger hasn’t found top gear either so it’s not going to be easy for both players. Currently I’m unsure on who I think will win, as usual it’s a heart and head thing. Of course my heart says Roger and my head is unsure. I did think before the tournament Roger would lose to Djoker, but just like I was last year now I’m not so sure. In my prediction last year I said Roger would win and it worked so I’m sticking to that system and saying Roger wins in 5 sets. Perhaps not so objective, perhaps a little blind worshiper like but I’m a fan so who gives a shit. Allez!