Australian Open SF: Federer Toys With Tsonga 6-2 6-3 6-2, to Meet Murray in Championship Match

Seriously, I’m not joking. Today I think Roger was toying with Tsonga. He simply could do no wrong. Just looking at the score and the match stats makes that pretty obvious. The fact that Tsonga couldn’t create one single break point opportunity on Roger’s serve, was probably the most telling statistic. Another telling statistic is that Roger made only 13 unforced errors in the whole match. That’s just over 4 unforced errors a set. Add to that the fact that he hit about 3 times as many winners, you can see just what a clinical performance that was from Roger. I know Roger doesn’t like stats much, but still it’s interesting to look at them. With this win Roger has now made 18 of the last 19 grand slam finals, which shows Roger’s mind blowing consistency in the majors.

There’s not much to say about the match against Tsonga really. It was just one of those matches where everything worked peRFectly. Tsonga looked a bit flat after his two five set matches, but I don’t know if it would have made a difference anyway. It was almost a carbon copy of the Hanescu match, which Roger won by the same score. It was also ironic that it was the same score that Tsonga beat Rafa by in the semi-finals of the Oz Open in 2008. But this time Tsonga found out what it was like to be on the receiving end. It seemed like Roger could do what he wanted. It looked like he could hit a winner whenever he wanted, which makes me think he was basically toying with Tsonga.

It also reminded me of the Hanescu match, because as in that match, Roger had a tough four set match in the previous round. When Roger comes through a tough match like the Andreev and Davydenko matches, it invariably gives him a lot of confidence. This is later in the tournament though, which means that this was even better than the Hanescu match. The backhand down the line was working nicely, which means that Roger was fully confident. You feel sorry for Roger’s opponents when he is in this mode, because they have no chance whatsoever. They might as well be a spectator. With this match Roger has now made a big statement going into the final, and he even rubbed it in at the post match interview, when he put the pressure on Murray some more.

You can find the interview at the bottom of this post. I just love when Roger does this. I think this kind of talk makes tennis exciting, unlike some boring whiners who claim that Roger is putting his opponents down. That is just scared Murray fans who hates Roger. If anything, Roger always respects his opponents and compliments them. But there is nothing wrong with putting pressure on your opponent. In fact that is your job as a tennis player. There is no rule that says you can’t do it off the court, and it adds some much needed spice to the sport. This is not golf after all. So lets look at some of the things Roger had to say:

Q. Normally the guy who plays you has nothing to lose at all. Andy is in a slightly different predicament. Do you think that will affect his game at all?

ROGER FEDERER: Uhm, don’t know. I mean, look, he’s in his second Grand Slam final now. I think the first one’s always a bit tougher than the second one. But now that he didn’t win the first one, I think doesn’t help, you know, for the second one around.Plus he’s playing, you know, me, who’s won many Grand Slams prior to that, been able to win here three times so I know what it takes and how to do it, which is definitely an advantage.

I don’t feel like the pressure’s really on me having to do it again, because I did it before. I think he really needs it more than I do, you know. So I think the pressure’s big on him.

But we’ll see how he’s gonna handle it. It’s not going to be easy for him, that’s for sure.

Haha awesome! I just love how Roger takes all the pressure off himself and puts it squarely on Murray’s shoulders. That is the advantage of winning the most slam titles in history. Roger really doesn’t have much left to prove, so he can afford this kind of talk. Even if he loses to Murray it won’t be all that big a deal. That doesn’t mean I don’t very much want to see him win this major, it just means the pressure if off. The thing about what Roger says, is that it is all true. So no one can claim that he is being unsportsmanlike. There is a lot of pressure on Murray to win this match, because he was in a slam final before and folded against Roger. So first of all the pressure will be on him not to fold this time around. That is just the first objective.

Should he be able to make the match competitive, only then can he start focusing on winning. And with Roger coming into the final after a crushing win over Tsonga, there will now be even more pressure on Murray. If the match with Tsonga was at least competitive, it would have given Murray some hope, but Roger was literally toying with Tsonga. Surely that has to put fear into Murray, who will already be feeling teh pressure of expectation. In the match against Cilic, Murray looked like he would once again crack under the pressure of expectation. Only a moment of brilliance, when he hit a winner after Cilic hit a lob over his head, helped him to get out of his predicament. After that the momentum had swung, and Cilic was too tired towards the end to cause another momentum swing in his favor.

If Murray was already showing signs of cracking under the pressure against Cilic, I predict that a final against the GAOT will be too much for him to handle. I think he could make it competitive, but there is also the possibility that he can implode like he did in the US Open final. Roger looks to be back to his very best, which can mean only one thing: If Murray plays at his very best, he will get a set off Roger. Judging by how well Murray has played this tournament, and because of the fact that he is now in his second slam final, I will at least admit that there is a possibility that he can do better this time. But like I said, not necessarily. The way Roger played against Tsonga, and all this talk from Roger in the media afterwards, may just cause enough pressure for Murray to fold once again.

Murray will feel the pressure, there is no doubt. He has shown signs of feeling the pressure against Cilic, and the pressure just increases ten fold when you are in a grand slam final and facing the GOAT, who happens to be in ominous form. Lets look at some more talk from Roger in the media:

Q. You’ve won finals against Andy, but he’s got the better record. Why do you think that is?

ROGER FEDERER: Well, because, first of all, he’s a good player. I don’t think otherwise you’re just gonna start having good records against me.

But, no, without having any ‑‑ taking anything away from him, but I think a few times he played me I wasn’t at my very, very best. I think I played him on a couple of occasions. Dubai the first time we played, I just came back from resting, my mono, and everything. I know some don’t like to hear it. Some still don’t believe me for some reason.

I played him maybe at times when I wasn’t at my very, very best. We had some close matches on many occasions where I thought I was in control and I ended up giving the match away by making errors of my own. That was definitely because of his play and the way he plays.

So I think the head‑to‑head could be quite different. But that’s why I don’t really care too much about how the head‑to‑head stands. Every match is played differently. Best‑of‑five is anyway very different. He’s done well against me to win so many matches when he was able to beat me when he was supposed to.

First off all Roger gives credit to Murray for being a good player, but he also admits that he wasn’t always at his best when he played against Murray. I’ve always thought that this was the case, hence Roger didn’t have too much trouble beating Murray in their last two meetings. In Cincinnati he beat Murray in straight sets, and at the Masters Cup he beat him 6-1 in the third set. Both comfortable wins. And of course those two matches came after 2008-beginning 2009, where Roger was struggling by his own high standards. As soon as Roger came out of his slump by winning Wimbledon and the French Open, he had little trouble beating Murray. It’s still hard to believe for me when I hear people say that the whole mono thing meant nothing, and that it was just an excuse.

In my mind 2008 was a bit of a disaster by Roger’s own high standards, caused by mono that he had at the start of 2008. It’s mind boggling that after the way Roger came out of that slump with flying colours, that people still believe it was just an excuse. But as always Roger makes his racquet do the talking. There is no need to convince anyone with words, it is clearly evident in his results. The bad news for Murray is that this is the best of five sets, which is Roger’s speciality. The only time they have met in a five set match was at the US Open final, when Roger made Murray look bad with a score of 6-2, 7-5, 6-2. I think Murray could be more confident this time around, but he can also still lose in straight sets.


The following part of the interview gives a good idea of what to expect from the match:

Q. The last two matches where you did beat him and stop the four‑match losing streak, were there any things in Murray’s game that you found that you could exploit more now?

ROGER FEDERER: Not really. I always felt, you know, if I played well, I had my chance. If I don’t play well, I’m gonna lose, you know. It’s been against many sort of counterpunchers, guys that keep the ball in play.

Hewitt used to be that way. Nalbandian used to be that way. I knew if I was not going to play a good match, you know, you could just walk off the court and shake hands and say, Well done.

But I usually don’t play bad matches anymore. If I do, it’s maybe a few games here and there like everybody else.

No, I mean, you know, he’s consistent. He’s one of the best return players we have in the game. He’s been able to improve many things in his game that make it harder today to beat him. I just think I played a good match in London. He didn’t maybe catch his best day. So it was one of those matches I got the better of him.

This is pretty much what it comes down to. If Roger is on his game, Murray can’t beat him. Period. Roger has too many weapons for Murray and if he is at his attacking best, there will be no stopping him. Murray has been playing more attacking tennis of late, especially in the Rafa match, but it is still nowhere near as good as Roger. Retrieving will always be a part of Murray’s game. He is good at taking advantage of an attacking player when they are not at their best, which is why he has beaten Roger in the past. In their last two matches however, he could not beat Roger because Roger was at his attacking best. And that was not even in a slam final. The point is that the match is on Roger’s racquet, and it will always be when he plays against Murray.

Murray has superb defensive skills, but it won’t be enough if Roger is on. I’m sure Murray will try to be more aggressive this time and mix things up, and if he is successful he can make this competitive. I think if Murray mixes up attacking and defensive play, and keep Roger guessing,  he has a decent chance. Even so, I think Roger will just be to good. Roger can mix it up as well if necessary, and if a certain game plan doesn’t work, he can also change things up. Roger said in his post match interview on court with Jim Courier, that he will be playing attacking tennis, which for me is the key. If he plays a similar match than he did against Tsonga, I don’t think Murray has much of a chance. No one has. Go get nr. 16 champ!

Prediction: Roger in 4.

Presser: http://www.australianopen.com/en_AU/news/interviews/2010-01-29/201001291264764402546.html

Ps. The post match interview with Courier was a gem. If you missed it you can view it here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQB_QRwDXPk

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5 Comments

  1. Totally agree with you and a very insightful analysis. I would only add that Federer tomorrow has to bring his serve with him on court. If it is as it has to be then we will witness No 16. If not it will be tricky since Murray returns well and has no respect for Federer. He had shown in the past that he is not amazed by the GOAT and that makes him stronger mentally than most.
    Prediction 1: Federer in 3 if the serve shows up.
    Prediction 2: Federer in 5 if hell brakes loose.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Lol, well said. Hes serve has been good throughout this tournament so im not too worried about that.

    [Reply]

    jason Reply:

    Yes, I would agree w/ him as well. But historically, his serve can be mercurial. An example of that is how he served in USO 2009 final. Double digit DFs, remember? Sometimes if it’s not there, it’s not there.

    Sometimes it can work exceptionally well. If the serve works exceptionally well, perhaps he can afford to have the BH & some other parts of his game not working at max. An example of this would be Wimbledon 2009 Final. His groundstrokes were mediocre to not good… of course by his standards, but he still won it. Scored 50 aces at the time.

    If the serve works just “good enough”, then he’ll need other parts of his game to compensate.

    The serve is the men’s game most dangerous weapon. So, it’ll hold perhaps the most important key to this match.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Good insight Jason.

    [Reply]

  2. PeRFfect post.If Roger plays at his best no one come close.The killer instinct is back.The win will go for the one who wants the tittle more, and I think is Roger.
    Have you realized that he´s only lost MC.and GS.finals against spanish or argentinean players? Nalby, Rafa and
    Delpo…

    [Reply]

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