Wow I needed some time to digest this one! What a nerve wrecking match if you are a Federer fan! Roger came out very cold, and in a sense understandable having a 7-1 head-to-head record against Thomas Berdych. If you won seven matches in a row against a player it’s not all that easy to be motivated. However, this was an important match and Roger looked like he didn’t show up for the match in the first two sets and a half. Admittedly Berdych came out basically in the zone, hitting those flat ground strokes for winners with accuracy and consistency. Roger simply didn’t have the answers and after he lost the second set he looked all but down and out. Personally I feel Roger should have made it a lot harder for Berdych to hit those winners from the back of the court, but he kept hitting up the middle of the court, to Berdych’s forehand and without change of pace.
When he used his slice to change up the speed it was short, up the middle of the court and with nothing on it, nicely sitting up for Berdych to punish it. Berdych has the kind of game that feeds off pace, and that’s exactly what Roger kept giving him. It was really hard to understand these tactics from Roger and even harder to watch. The first set and a half was just torture if you are a Federer fan, hoping that Berdych would completely choke but not betting on it. However, he would do exactly that, getting broken towards the end of the third set after missing the easiest volleys you could ever hope to get as well as a sitter of an overhead. So really Roger did nothing to merit a comeback in this match, it was more like Berdych handed him the third set on a platter. Of course, this gave Roger hope and he started playing a little better. Still he had to count on Berdych not playing nearly as well as he did in the first two sets.
In the end the only good thing that comes out for Roger in the match is that he saw his opponent’s self-doubt and took advantage of it. He did well to fight back and his fitness seemed good as well. Other then that he didn’t do much but hang in there hoping that Berdych would start to miss, which of course he did. There is no doubt that Berdych choked, the moment was simply too big for him and he missed volleys and an overhead that no professional tennis player should ever miss. Pressure can do terrible things to people and this match was a prime example. But not only concerning what Berdych did. Roger looked under immense pressure and he simply had no confidence at all in stark contrast to his previous three matches. As a former tennis player myself I know this feeling of no confidence, it’s probably the worst feeling one can have on court.
Things simply aren’t working and there is not much at all you can do about it, you have to rely on hope that somehow you opponent will falter, which is exactly what Berdych did. These type of matches we’ve been seeing from Roger the last a year or so with increasing frequency and I have the feeling from now on in grand slams Roger is going to play one bad match where he’s going to give his opponent a real chance to win. This seems to be the trend these days, but if he wins this kind of match I feel he will do well in the tournament and possibly win it. Even though he wasn’t close to his best in this match he will take a lot of confidence from the fact that he got through it and that physically he was having no problems. In fact after the match Roger said that he felt he could go on for three more sets. So at least we know he’s not going to get tired very easily. As a fan I will, of course, take this win and expect Roger to be much more confident in the upcoming rounds.
Elsewhere things went as I expected with Roddick, Del Potro and Djokovic all going through without too many problems. In the top half of the draw, Nadal looked impressive disposing of Tommy Haas, and the same for Murray who easily beat Jurgen Melzer from Austria. So all of the top four are still looking very good to make the semi-finals. All three of the Frenchmen Simon, Monfils and Tsonga is still very dangerously lurking in the top half of the draw though so Nadal and Murray certainly aren’t having it all their own way. An upset can easily be on the cards in the top half of the draw. One of the matches that I picked for my match of the day in my last post turned out to be an epic encounter. Fernando Gonzalez of Chile beat Richard Gasquet of France 12-10 in the fifth set! Awesome stuff. My pick for match of the day this time is going to be Gael Monfils vs Giles Simon. Should be a very interesting match.
Tsonga vs Blake and Murray vs Verdasco should be interesting as well, but still I expect Tsonga and Murray to prevail. The least interesting match in the top half will be Nadal vs Gonzalez. Gonzalez will be tired after his marathon match with Gasquet and Nadal is looking really good so he shouldn’t have too many problems. But in the end tennis is unpredictable so it’s not a done deal. Looking ahead at the bottom half of the draw quarter final matches I expect Roger to beat Del Potro and I expect him to play a lot better as well. The Djokovic/Roddick match should be interesting but I expect Djokovic to once again beat Roddick like he did in the US Open quarter-finals. With every round that passes in this year’s Australian Open things are getting more and more interesting. This must be one of the most interesting and competitive grand slams in a while and men’s tennis is looking in great shape.
Ps. In this post I criticised Roger somewhat and part of that is just venting my own frustration about this match, but I am very happy Roger is through and I still believe he can win this title. Allez Roger!