Australian Open Rd 2: Federer escapes Simon 6-2, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3

This turned out to be a much tougher match than I thought it’d be. JesuFed picked up where he left off against Lacko and won the first two sets with no trouble whatsoever. It was another sublime display. But in the third set things started changing. It seems Roger got almost bored of beating on Simon. To play the same game for three full sets can’t be easy. It is much easier to lose concentration for a while, and if the other guy is playing well he is likely to take advantage of it. Simon went up two breaks in the third with some inspiring play and Roger’s level was just dropping slightly. Roger got one break back but I still expected Simon to win the set, which he did. I thought Roger would get it back together in the fourth set and I fell asleep. When I woke up I was pretty stunned to see Simon had taken the fourth set as well, but at least Roger broke at that point in the fifth set.

He was clearly not having it all his own way though. Simon was always going to be a tough draw in the second round, given that he had won Sydney the week before. Unlike Nadal, this was a very tough draw. Deserved slam champs earn their way to the title. Simon is the type of player who makes his opponent earn the win. He just hangs in there and forces the opponent to falter eventually. He is also a very tricky opponent in that he chances the pace a lot. He is mostly a counter punch type, but he also has the ability to flatten out his shots. This makes him an awkward and unpredictable opponent. The fact that he could get even JesusFed to falter says a lot of his abilities. I just feel it is a bit of a shame that Roger did not pull himself together and win the fourth set. I didn’t see it, so it is hard for me to draw any conclusions.

But it seems he just lost some concentration and made a few more errors while Simon stepped up his game. And as usual, I don’t think it is as big a deal as people make it. Someone like Roger can have these lapses because he has so many ways to win points, that sometimes he can forget to follow the most basic and simple way. The first two sets was basic enough, but it seems he complicated things for himself in the third and fourth while Simon the opportunist capitalized. We can’t forget what a good player Simon is. He is currently ranked 34th but was probably playing top 10 level. I mean it is a really tough match for a second round in a slam. It was a bit like the Hewitt/Nalbandian match. It was always going to be a tight affair. The important thing is that Roger found a way, which in itself is a positive thing.

The momentum was with Simon after the fourth set and Roger had to find a way to turn things around. I liked the way he broke in the fifth set and apparently he did as well with a loud ‘COME ON!’. After that it was just a matter of staying steady, although he missed 4 match points at 5-2 on Simon’s serve.. At least this time he won after having match points and not the other way around. Anyway I get annoyed when people criticize Roger after a match like this. Once again he won a 5 set match which we have seen him do quite often in slams. He doesn’t lose them much, which says a lot about his mental toughness in slams. It was a tricky match and he got the desired result. That is all that matters. Sure I would have liked to see JesusFed hang around for the full match, but it is not easy to play like that throughout a tournament.

There will be tough matches and the important thing is to get through them, like last year against Davydenko. I don’t think this match makes him any less of a favorite for the tournament. If anything it makes him more of a favorite. The draw only get easier for him from here on. At least until the semi’s. Next he plays Malisse, which he should be ok with. Then he will face Robredo or Stakhovsky who is easy as well. And in the quarters he could play Roddick, Wawrinka, or Monfils, who he has good records against. So for at least the next three matches he should have a pretty good time of it and be able to get back any lost confidence. This was Roger’s one big test of the tournament and he got through it with flying colors. Onwards and upwards.

Presser: http://www.australianopen.com/en_AU/news/interviews/2011-01-19/201101201295478957101.html

On court interview: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VN-QFdKu1Gw&feature=player_embedded#!

Highlights: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eOO1LA7a3dM

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34 Comments

  1. F. does not get enough credit for his mental toughness. In the fifth set he was faced with 1) a guy he has never beaten but who has beaten him twice before, 2) losing a 2-set lead, 3) losing a handful of match points after losing a bunch of matches last season after holding match points. Yet he never panicked and closed things out on his serve playing intelligent points.

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  2. I feel even better about his chances winning the whole thing after he pulled out this win.
    He played a great relentless opponent.This was never going to be an easy match between two players who came off of solid confident tour wins.
    Perhaps Simon might have taken out any one today except Roger.Come on Roger till the final!!

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  3. Only watched the last set. I think someone mentioned it before but I’ll say it again – it was a different Federer in the 5th set. Though he lost 2 sets, his face and body language were totally different than 6 months ago. He was concentrated and determined. And of course, he made it through by serving for the match under pressure. That’s very positive.
    Simon quickly understood how he should play Federer – and that is what everyone learns the hard way – he had to give it all he had to have a chance. Since he’s a previous top 10 player, it was really good quality play. But he couldn’t hold it for 3 straight sets. I wish he could play like that against Nadal in the 3rd round of USO2010. He gave Federer a hell of a fight.
    Federer now knows he can’t take any break during a match because against top players it can all turn around very quickly. He should finish the job while he’s on top. I think that was a good lesson for him and it’ll help him in the next rounds.

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  4. Thanks for blogging Ru-an. You said u weren’t feeling well so I hope ur feeling better now and ur injuries are healing.
    Roger didn’t do a lot wrong in the 4th set IMO. Mats Willander also agreed with you and he said that this win makes Roger the favourite because he found a way to get through the match.
    Simon is ranked 34 in the world after last week’s win- Malisse is ranked 45! Crazy draw.
    The good news is that Querey and Fish got knocked out. Mallisse also knocked out Montanes, who beat Roger at Estoril last year. So Roger’s draw has opened up a bit better until the semi finals! (Finally some luck!!)
    Did you see that Djokovic has been put on at midday tomorrow against his countryman? Let’s see how he does in the aussie heat against last weeks’ finalist.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    I’m trying. I dont feel well though. Yeah Troicki is at least a decent player although he does choke a lot. Should be interesting match.

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    Ed Reply:

    The best with your recovery, Ru-an.

    I don’t recall another interview with Roger in which he admitted his stress, his (only half ironic) hoping that Simon was “tired” so that the level of his game would dip. We’ve heard him say that he was “lucky,” because he’s an honest guy. But when he said that it wasn’t that the level of his game dipped but that Simon’s rose, as someone who watched the match, that didn’t tally with what I saw. I was hoping for a recovery, but, as you noted, the 5-2 4 match point lost opportunity was striking.
    I kept asking myself, what is it that Simon has that so disrupted Roger’s winning game–he’d won 2 and 3 and then? Simon really (to my eye) did very little that was different: a great returner with real strength and accuracy, but his speed increased? The depth of his shots increased? Not that I saw. Roger got bored? I have to admit that that thought occurred to me. But “bored” at this point in his career? With a man who’d beaten him twice before? Doesn’t make sense. And what happened? His bh went south; his focus was lost; except for rare moments, he couldn’t find the court. Yes, he won, but it was almost a loss all the way to the very end. There was no ease; it was Simon who blinked, not Roger who won. And he knew it: “lucky” was his word.
    Maybe it was a matter of getting the monkey off his back; perhaps the Rafa “issue” for Roger is seen, in miniature, with Simon. Something is deeply stressed in Roger when he can’t defeat an opponent; in this, he’s no different from any other player, for the thought is “This guy has my number.” So I’m suggesting that what “attacked” Roger was not Simon, but his own deepest doubt, and that’s why his game collapsed. For that’s what it did.
    So, if I’m right, Roger will, the next time he plays Simon, not get “lost.” Or not. Now, on to the next round!

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Well of course his game dipped. JesusFed doesnt lose sets. But his game dipped less than people think. It takes a vry small dip and the other player to up his game. But like you said he panicked and that didnt help things. Roger is mentally slightly fragile due to the type of person he is. I guess that is it.

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  5. I guess the pressers from both players said it all. Simon said he needed time to adjust to Federer’s fast-paced all-out attack and the 5 set format gave him this time. Simon is also too good a player to roll over and from what I saw he took full advantage of Federer’s lapses by playing some outstanding tennis – probably the best I’ve seen him play. The Federer of a 2010 summer season would have wilted under the onslaught, but not this new post-annacone version. Federer also conceded that Simon upped it in the later stages of set two and carried it forward in sets 3 and 4. He said the conditions changed in the middle of the match with the cooler temperatures favoring Simon’s style of play. However, while he did credit Simon’s game, he claimed that his own tennis was not too bad in sets 3, 4 and 5. The truth is that it was terrible – uncertain, edgy and trapped in a maze of tightness, federer forgot to use the drop shot until later in set 5. Perhaps he would have adjusted better to Simon’s countercharge had he stayed behind the baseline instead of continuing to hit his shots inside it; an observation made by Mats Wilander who added that Federer was playing defensive tennis from attacking positions. All said and done, and in his own words, Federer threw tactics to the wind and relied more on his experience and guts to edge ahead. And even towards the end when many of us (Mrs Federer included!) were just stupefied by his choice of shots, the man still won. The fact is that an inconsistent and erratic ‘mortal’ Federer with the token shanks on either side, was still good enough to override Simon’s best ever tennis and carve his first win over a guy he simply hates to play. Hats off!

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  6. I also wanted to ass Ru-an that I love the picture you’ve posted at the top of ur blog. Where’d u get it? How young was Fed when it was taken?! So cute

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    Ru-an Reply:

    You can click on the icons at the end of my posts to find it Andrew.

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  7. Totally different subject, but one I feel compelled to get off my chest. Why is it that we all love tennis so much? I often explain to people here in the good ol’ USA, who have baseball, and football to watch, that Tennis is a sport where you SEE all the drama that both people are going thru. I couldn’t even watch the final set, cause I looked at Federer, and thought, he could lose this one, I better go and take a shower, and comeback to see whats going on. Fortunately, it came out the way it was supposed to, but this sport in particular is riviting to me. It might also be because we are seeing the most spectacular player ever play the game. On a similar note, I used to love to watch Mike Tyson fight, cause he was the best. I guess what I’m trying to understand is, “why don’t more people get it?” Is it sophisticated? Quite simply, this sport is the most entertaining to watch and provides me with so much joy when Federer wins. Love it!! See you guys thru the week, and great job as usual Ruan. Hope you are doing better. Gary

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Thanks Gary. I agree but its also the rivalry i enjoy. I love to see Nadal lose almost as much i i enjoy seeing Roger win. But Roger is just teh best player to watch. IF Nadal wanst around id still enjoy Roger more than anything. Nadal does help make things interesting but not if he dominates the sport. Then he kills it.

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  8. Roger is human, not a machine. After demolishing Simon for two sets, he had a loss of concentration.

    Simon was no easy opponent for a second-round match–a former top ten player whom Federer had never beaten. These thoughts must have preyed on his mind. He was pretty honest in his interview that he was half-wondering whether Simon would get tired and make some mistakes in the fifth, but he managed to put those thoughts aside and concentrate.

    Simon may be the trickiest counterpuncher for Federer to handle in terms of tactics. Both his forehand and backhand are strong. He redirects the ball better than Murray. Nadal has more power and speed, but his game is much simpler than Simon’s. It seems Federer can’t read Simon’s shots at all.

    I don’t think it was just luck that he managed to win. In the fifth he could easily have lost his head and started going for too much, which would have meant certain doom. Instead of thrashing around and sinking deeper into the quicksand, he refocused and played very patiently to coax a couple of crucial errors from the racket of Simon. When he broke his roar of joy and relief was wonderful to see. Then he served it out strongly, no easy task after Simon saved all those match points on his own serve.

    I’m encouraged. He’s still in the tournament, and he beat a player whom he’d never beaten before.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Yeah Steve not a bad win. A win is a win after all. No need to look back.

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  9. Great post from Gary.

    In the UK everyone is obsessed by soccer. I used to watch it but now it bores me to death! It’s so dull- an entire match can go by and no one scores and sometimes nothing interesting happens. That can’t happen with tennis. When I talk to my friends about tennis they say it’s boring to watch!!!
    I think it is an intellectual thing too. Tennis is much more about stats, tactics, who ur opponent is. As Roger always says- it’s tough because there are no draws in tennis! I think that the intensity of a tennis match is also much more amplified- but that depends on having someone to route for. Unless Roger is playing I admit that I don’t care so much about the result (unless it indirectly benefits Roger) and therefore I do find it a bit dull. I enjoy the beauty of the game- but it isn’t as exciting.
    Roger’s fans also become so keen on the game as he exemplifies how it should be played. He is the history of the sport and it’s shining light and has been for some time.
    We should all be grateful we are alive to witness Roger’s genius. We are experiencing a special time for men’s tennis

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Soccer bores me to death but to each their own.

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  10. I have to agree with comments by Ed and Bragi: this was a match in which we saw two different Federers. One was immaculate in both game-plan and execution, the other almost his antithesis as focus, execution and ultimately shot-selection at times completely disappeared out the window. It’s too simple to say that his opponent played better – which he did; the answer seemed to lie within Federer himself, as it so often does.
    In a way, it reminded me of his match against Davydenko at last year’s tournament, except the course of that match (but not the outcome, fortunately) was almost a mirror reversal of the contest on Wednesday night against Simon. In the Davydenko match Federer started cold against an opponent playing at the very top of his game and looked to be on his way out after being a set down and only a point from a double-break. But then the match changed on one sublime shot from Federer – as it so often does – and the pretender was reminded of who he was playing. In the match on Wednesday Federer began perfectly, and maintained that form till at least half-way through the second set. But then – like the Davydenko match – it turned on one point. Federer had just held serve to cement a 4-1 lead with 3 consecutive drop-shots. It would be kind to say he was making his opponent look hapless – Simon was being humiliated; the commentators suggested Federer’s game had at this stage almost become ‘arrogant’. An annihilation appeared imminent. Under the unrelenting pressure, Simon hit a forehand long to lose the very first point in his next service game. It seemed he was on his way out. But then Federer pulled out yet another drop-shot – now 4 in a row! – and, audaciously, from the baseline. It missed. The hubris of the shot was unmistakeable. And the game changed. Federer started missing shots he had previously made. Simon held, the pattern continued, and in a quick sequence of yet more errors Roger was broken in the next game. Well, as we know, he went on to win that set but the match had shifted, as we saw so clearly in the 3rd set (Federer broken 3 consecutive times!), the spluttering that continued in the 4th set and the to-the-death-struggle in the 5th, where Simon showed he wasn’t finished despite being 2-5 down by saving 3 match points. Even from there Federer looked oh so vulnerable. Yes, he was luckly to win, but the puzzle is why did Federer’s game leach away from him so suddenly at a point in the second set, so that the flow and command that he previously demonstrated all but disappeared for the rest of the match? Sure, Simon played great – but partly because Federer opened the door late in the second set. For the rest of the match it was a squirming spectacle (for a Federer supporter) of watching him being drawn in to playing the very game that he despises, the long drawn out rallies of the pusher and grinder, finally committing the error where previously he had punished his opponent for his presumptuousness at attempting to test greatness. Federer won – on heart, but we were once again made to doubt that he has found the answers to what makes his game – the game that only he can play – at times disappear without trace. It is the Federer enigma. We can hope that, perhaps, in the long run, this match will ultimately be no more relevant than the one against Davydenko last year.

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    TD Reply:

    I don’t know if you accept it or take it as an excuse, but Federer explained after the match that the conditions made it harder on him as the match progressed:
    “I think through really cold weather almost towards the end, it was harder and harder to really put balls away, and that got him on so many more balls that in the beginning he couldn’t get on.”
    (http://www.australianopen.com/en_AU/news/interviews/2011-01-19/201101201295478957101.html)

    My analysis – those are the signs of age and long (and very successful) career. I’m sure that when you’re young, you just want to crush everyone on the other side of the net and you don’t let go (see Nadal’s results). Dealing with these slumps in concentration is his main challange today.

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  11. His BP conversion was poor especially during the 3rd and 4th set. The entire match really have my hanging by the thread. A win is a win, maybe this will help him to win ugly if the occassion calls for it.

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  12. “He’s a great player first of all so matches against him are never easy,” said Federer. “This is the first win I’ve had against him, every time we played we go the distance, so hopefully we don’t play each other any more. ” – Roger Federer

    I was a bit stunned to hear him say this, that he hoped he didn’t play Simon any more.

    Anyway, I don’t think this ‘Fed had to go 5 sets to win’ win will mean anything to his form or how he plays any upcoming matches. Hasn’t stopped alot of commies, etc, from talking about it though. ‘Is he vulnerable? Is he too old?’ and so on….

    BTW, I don’t get the ‘old’ excuse. The guy’s only 29, fer gosh sakes. Hardly a geezer.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Well we know the commies. They like making random thoughtless comments. Thats what there job description is after all.

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  13. yeah a win is what counts at the end of the day and let see how it goes now for federer.
    saw a tweet from some nadal’s fan on ausopen website
    “Whoa drop shot from rafa…clever…saw sweeting standing far behind baseline and executed it to perfection”
    i broke into laughter…these things are not common to witness if you are a rafa fan.Being fedfanatics we are full of it and roger makes it look so easy…this is pure talent…this is genius and this is sheer class.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    I saw Nadal making a drop shot and i wasnt sure whether it was a lob. Hes touch is a joke compared to Roger and many other players. Its all about moonballing for Nadal and boring his opponents to death. His fans are also clueless about the sport and life in general. There is no depth in them.

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    marron Reply:

    Oh, Ru-an. You really *know* that I’m clueless about sport and life in general, do you? You *know* that I have no depth?

    You’re just amazing! How did you figure me out?

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Stop trolling or you will get banned.

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    marron Reply:

    Hmmm. I didn’t think defending myself (as a Rafa fan) was considered trolling. I don’t understand how you can tell I’m clueless when you don’t know anything about me. Haven’t I been respectful? If not, please let me know. Thanks.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Where did i say you were clueless?

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    marron Reply:

    ‘His fans are also clueless about the sport and life in general. There is no depth in them. ‘

    This comment you made.

    IAC, I’m happy to drop this and move on.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    This is a Federer blog. If you are not happy with such comments then i suggest you move on. Or be prepared to get banned.

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  14. A few of you, like Bragi, Andrew and Neil, have pointed out. There is something about Roger these days, something that bothers him, frustrates him and takes his focus and believe away, causing his A game to disappear. To be frank, I am not overly concern with the next few matches actually, as not many players are able to do that to Roger. Unfortunately, Nadal can, especially in a best of 5 match, hence my underlying worry should they meet in the final! Call me an unsporting fan, but deep down I hope Nadal does not make the final. I pray that Roger win this and add to his wonderful 16. I hope Nadal never catches him in slam total and screw the h2h.

    I would also like to share my view that at this stage of his career, it is not realistic for us to expect him to play like his dominant years anymore. I no longer expect perfectness in every single game from Roger these days. I just want to root for him, enjoy and marvel at the magic he is still so capable of bringing to the court more than any other players, even at 29.

    I am a huge sports fan, but my decision to continue to subscribe to the cable TV this year, despite the fee hike, was purely because of Roger. I figure the coming 2 to 3 years will likely be the last for me to savor Roger’s tennis. After which, who knows, i may stop following tennis altogether… Who else could stir my imagination like Roger? Nadal? no. Murry? no. Del Potro? maybe but not sure yet. We shall see.

    Ruan, i have been following your blog for the last 2 years, though I seldom posted any comments (lazy me). And I have to say this is THE blog for Roger fans! For example, your analysis and opinion today does ease my worry slightly and made my day. Let’s hope this match turns out to be the catalyst to Roger raising his game further and winning it all come next Sunday! Cheers!

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  15. I watched most of the first set of Roger’s match against Malisse. But that was about it. He wasn’t going to lose to Malisse – they both knew it – unless he broke a leg, and in the end he won comfortably in 3 straight. But when Federer was up 40-love in the 5th game of the first set and then handed the break to his opponent with a succession of poorly played points and extravagant errors I lost interest. That is the Federer I like the least. The commentators said he was way too casual out there but that’s another way of saying his tennis (and his attitude) was sloppy. A better opponent would have made him pay.

    On a side note, what is it with women’s tennis? I saw some of the match between Kuznetsova and Henin, especially the second-set tie-break. How can a multiple grand slam champion simply choke her way out of the match with a torrent of unforced errors on the forehand and series of double faults, even though she was often in a winning position? That was Henin. A club player would have been embarrassed. Kuznetsova won – despite serving like a club player herself; her first serves in the tie-break were so slow they may as well have been delivered under-arm, but the observation of one of the match commentators (a woman, I might add) summed it up: she said the players seemed not to be able to think out there, they regularly couldn’t make the right shot selection – especially the percentage shot – at the right time. Painful.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Now you know why i dont comment on womens tennis.

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