US Open Day 6: Federer and Murray Advance in Straight Sets

  • Federer Drops Serve Twice in Kohlschreiber Match

Since it’s the weekend and getting closer to crunch time, I decided to follow up yesterday’s post with a summary of what went down yesterday at Flushing Meadows. Yesterday I said I’m not making too much of Federer’s easy first two match wins and I believe I was proven right in that regard. Federer defeated Kohlschreiber 6-3, 6-4, 6-4, but got broken by Kohlschreiber for the first time since Wimbledon.

In fact, he got broken twice, and both times he lost his serve to love. He also kept up the tactic of taking the second serve return on the rise and failed on several occasions. This tactic have turned out to be quite controversial. Fedfans even have their own term for it called SABR(Sneak Attack By Roger). As I said before, it will be more difficult to do at the US Open than at Cincy. I’m not sure if it’s a good idea for him to continue with it.

It seems Federer and his fans think it some kind of secret weapon. Like an ace up his sleeve, that will win him his 18th slam. I’m not saying that is impossible, but I guess we will find out what the deal is against Isner. Isner has a huge second serve and Federer would have to be very confident in this tactics to use it. And if he stops using it now then he loses his ‘secret weapon’ and it looks like he doesn’t believe in himself.


But the main point is that it is clear the conditions are very different from Cincy. On both occasions that Kohlschreiber broke serve, he followed it up with two double faults in both his following service games. The guy is incredibly fragile mentally and if he actually held his serve Federer could have already been involved in a very difficult match. Isner is mentally much better than the German and Federer could be in for a very difficult match.

So the first time Federer played a decent opponent the cracks already appeared. I’m not writing off his chances for the title or anything but in my opinion it is not a good sign for him to drop his serve to love twice against a guy who is not even a great returner. We will see what happens against Isner. Isner definitely won’t be a pushover in these conditions and already has a win in best of five sets over Federer, on clay of all surfaces.

If Federer puts in a convincing performance and wins in straight sets then his stock would go up again in my view, but if it goes to five sets, for instance, his stock would fall further. Isner will certainly get a lot of support from the crowd and I don’t think Federer wants it to become a long match for several reasons. He’d want to get it done in four sets at most.

  • Elsewhere in the Draw

Murray had his first straight set win when he defeated Bellucci 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 which is a welcome conservation of energy for him. He now plays Anderson though who looked very clutch for once in a 6-3, 7-6(3), 7-6(3) victory over Thiem. Thiem wasn’t actually playing badly at all. Anderson was just very clutch for once in his life and he could actually really test Murray if he keeps it up.


He already came very close to beating Djokovic at Wimbledon and he may just be ready to make the next big step in a slam. I can see him causing an upset if Murray is slightly off, who is not as clutch as Djokovic. Then both Stan and Berdych won too with Berdych dropping the opening set against Garcia-Lopez. Gasquet, who has been in good form of late, routined Tomic in straight sets and Young came back from two sets to love down to defeat Troicki.

Well, later today is one of our predictions matches Fognini vs Lopez who, by the way, have never played each other before despite both being on the tour since 2004. Astounding! And the winner of those two will play the winner of Djokovic vs Bautista Agut who plays in the night session. Looking forward to some more good tennis today!

  • Update

Becker said the following about Federer’s ‘SABR’:

“My generation would have hit him on first serve. If he would have played McEnroe, Lendl or Connors or even me, we would have said, Roger, in all honesty, I like you very much, one more time, I go straight at you. In my generation, guys wouldn’t have accepted as it is now. For sure.”

Becker just stating the obvious and there have already been Fedfans on Men’s Tennis Forums who twisted his words, saying Becker ‘slagged Roger off’, that he said Roger was taking ‘cheap shots’ at his opponents and that the ‘whole locker room was talking about it’. I guess they are getting pretty desperate. I watched tennis back in those days and there is no way this tactic would just have been accepted by opponents without them doing something similar in return.


It’s like Becker said, they would have gone straight at Federer. Lendl did that anyway if he got the opportunity. But these days it’s all about money and PR nonsense so players are reluctant to do it. It is not against the rules to do what Federer does, but neither is it against the rules to take aim at your opponent at the net. You could say it’s disrespectful to do it, but you could say the same thing about Federer’s approach.

What is better, to lose or to go straight at your opponent when they showed disdain for your second serve? The answer is obvious. It is much better to win than to have your second serve embarrassed and lose the match on top of it!

  • Highlights

The is in your court.

Posted in Grand Slams, US Open.


  1. The SABR is a gimmick and holds little consequence in his game. The point of that move (the bigger picture) is that he’s playing more aggressively, and has players thinking about the unpredictability of his game. People focusing on SABR should go watch the Kardashians.

    Roger will have little trouble with Isner.


  2. If Becker’s saying that, then I think Djoker would certainly have been told what to do in preparation for his next meeting with Federer and how to “solve” this 2nd serve approach. Aiming at the body would be difficult to execute if Federer’s block return is particularly deep but it’s worth trying.
    “SABR” was a term coined by Severin Luthi and seems to have now been adopted by tennis fans to describe the tactic. Probably got something to do with Edberg as he used to use this a lot back in the day.


    Ru-an Reply:

    Yes, I actually just read about Luthi on Twitter. I’m glad you said something about it because I’d like to hear my readers’ views about it. And yes, if the return is deep it would be harder to drill the ball into his chest, but if it drops short once and you aim right for the groin area it would put doubts into Federer mind about doing it again. He’d have the extra pressure of knowing it must be perfect or he may not be able to have more children.


    Jiten Reply:

    He already has two pairs. He will be least worried about that. Probably that is THE reason he has been so brave about the SABR, while others have to rethink before committing themselves to the net. :)) :)) In my opinion tall players like Isner, Anderson etc should be more worried about imposing SABJ, SABK themselves as the probability would a little bit more for these players. :-P


    Ru-an Reply:

    Haha yes, Jiten it’s not like he needs more kids. But I’d imagine it would be pretty painful. Can you imagine him falling to the ground on Ash and rolling around in pain?


    Joe Reply:

    He has two pairs of children?


    Ru-an Reply:

    What he does with this tactic is he crowds you. He makes you feel like there is nowhere to go. He takes away the angles and closes fast onto the net. The lob is not a great option either because he covers it so well. So you feel very pressured. So going hard and straight at him is probably the best way to go. But players are too ‘polite’ these days.

    Their reasoning should be: if he gives me only one option I’m going to take it. The other alternative is to allow him to embarrass you and do a number on you, which is unacceptable. Djokovic allowed Federer to do it to him in Cincy and I’m sure next time he’d be better prepared. Becker for one is not gonna allow Djokovic to tolerate it.


    Charlie Reply:

    Yeah it is being overhyped way too much. Is it some kind of ‘magic’ weapon? Of course not. But is it a useful tactic to bring in as a surprise, but you are right that eventually players will find a response. It’s not some game-changing shot like some people seem to think it is.


    Ru-an Reply:

    I’m actually a big fan of that shot, Charlie. It’s only Federer who can pull off something like that. I’m just not sure how good an idea it is on slower courts over five sets. And I do think his opponents would be completely within their rights to tee off at Federer at the net. If there is such a thing as an arrogant tactic then this would be it. It’s like someone getting right into your face to try and intimidate you.

    If it was me I’d try to hit my opponent but you can’t do that off of any ball. If it’s deep it’s much more difficult. Then you just have to remain calm and try to make the next shot difficult for Federer. The key is to be mentally prepared for it and not get caught off guard, like what happened to Djokovic in Cincy. It is a difficult shot to hit and he is bound to mishit the ball, at which point you try to castrate him.

    Believe me he would think twice about doing it again. Alternatively if you sense that he is gonna do it while you are in your service motion you hit a first serve right at his body. That’s a little riskier because you could hit a double fault but would also get him off your case. I don’t think it’s that hard to deal with, but you gotta be prepared and you can’t be meek.


  3. I agree with this, in the old days they would probably just aim a first serve (on the 2nd serve) at him , risking the double fault. Federer is confident enough he can duck out of the way I guess…I would reserve it for late moments in sets when there is pressure.

    Yes this whole thing is being overhyped by media types who want it to fit in their ‘Federer as genius’ narrative. Actually I think it is a smart move by him just to mix things up. AFter all it’s better than chipping a backhand midcourt and watching Djokovic or Murray blast it into the corner. The whole purpose is to rattle the server and get him thinking about something else.

    I agree Federer’s form was not great in the Kohlschreiber match. He had some dips and got broken to love which is strange . Kohlschreiber hit some good shots too though, just can’t keep it together.

    I think Federer, as he often does, will come back more focussed today. Even in his peak, he had low quality matches, it’s not like he would laugh his way to the semis back then, surely :-)

    Still, in the form Djokovic is in now, I cannot see Federer winning this. Djokovic is not showing signs of the frustration he had in Cincy and Montreal and looks more relaxed. He realy lucked out in the draw getting Nishikori and neither Murray or Wawrinka. Whoever survives that side of the draw will be exhausted come Sunday…


    Ru-an Reply:

    Good, balanced comment as usual Bharata. Yes, the hype about the shot is annoying as if Federer is reinventing the wheel. Players did things like that often in the old days. But at the same time it is nice to see. Federer knows he has to come up with something different if he is going to win another slam. He needs a trump card.

    I think this was a good idea but like you, I find it a bit difficult to see him actually winning the title. I don’t see that shot being a factor the way it was in Cincy for instance. Not only is it known now, but it is B05 and a slower surface. And I agree with you that Djokovic is looking better AND that he got lucky with the draw.


  4. The evolution of this blog has been really fascinating. From being a realist federer blog to a fanboy Djoker blog. It has been quite a journey.
    The way you pick up small small things and turn them as a point against federer’s current form against his legacy so as just to prove that your current favourite is better is really great.
    The skepticism with which u treat everyone else and the quickness with which u defend Djoker really goes on to show that this is no longer a realist\unbiased blog.
    I hate to say it but your bias for Djoker now i guess is even more than it was towards federer earlier. I would have kept reading this blog if it was a unbiased tennis blog from a Djoker fan. But now it is just a Djoker fan blog which is trying to hide itself as a general tennis blog.
    You seem to wanna show that even though this is a tennis blog but Djoker is so great, so right in everything he does that you are forced to side with him.
    Sorry but this no longer interests me.


    Ru-an Reply:

    Nice to see you go :-)


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