This was obviously a tougher match than the 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 win over Melzer at Wimbledon this year and was Federer’s toughest match at the US Open so far. The first set was pretty routine, and it looked like it might be another big beat down. But Melzer started taking chances and started taking the game to Federer. He took the return of serve early which put more pressure on the Federer serve. They ended up playing a tie break which Federer won thanks to two lucky net cords. He may have won it anyway, but the net cords certainly didn’t hurt. Melzer managed to break in the first game of the third set, but couldn’t consolidate. Federer broke a second time in the third set and it was soon all over. Looking at the match stats it was yet another clean performance from Federer. The serve is still looking good and he is looking to attack as much as possible.
He was also using the forehand drop shot with much success when he was inside the court. With this win Roger makes his 25th straight quarter final in slams. Next is the big match I’ve been talking about for a while now, against Soderling. When Roger won the Australian Open this year his toughest match came in the quarter finals. I expect a similar kind of match here. I think Roger will pull through this one, but Soderling is playing very well himself. He lost the first set against Montanes, but as soon as he hit his stride there was only one winner. The score was 4-6 6-3 6-2 6-3. These guys like Soderling, Berdych, and Del Potro are very hard to stop when they are on. Annoyingly so, because it’s not really attractive tennis. They pretty much just blast their opponent off the court with huge serves and ground strokes.
If I have to make a prediction I would say Roger wins this in four sets, but it will be a tough four sets. Something similar to last year where Soderling came very close to taking it to five sets. That match last year was actually very close. I felt like if Soderling took that fourth set, which he came very close to doing, he would have had Roger in trouble. So this won’t be an easy match that’s for sure, but if Roger brings his best stuff as he has of late, I give him the edge. I think if he comes through this match the semi’s will be more comfortable. Djokovic or Monfils doesn’t hold the same threat as Soderling does. To get back to my last post about Rafa’s chances to complete the career slam here, someone left a good comment there. Go read it if you haven’t yet. Basically what the reader said is that a lot of pressure and expectation is now on Rafa since Murray lost.
It’s kind of the same thing that happened when Rafa lost at the French Open last year. There was so much pressure on Roger after that that he almost lost to Haas and Del Potro. And Roger likes to be the favorite. Rafa on the other hand likes to be the underdog. He explicitly stated that winning the US Open is not a realistic goal for him:
“Maybe for Roger, [it] was a big goal because he is the best [in] history and he needed Roland Garros,” Nadal said. “Seriously for me, complete the Grand Slam at this moment is not a goal. For me the goal is try to improve my level and see what happens next Sunday, no? For me is not an obsession and is not a real goal.”
Of course we all know this is total nonsense. He wants to complete the career slam more than anything. So it is clear by this that he is feeling the pressure and trying to avoid it by downplaying his chances. But now that Murray has lost there is nowhere to hide. Everyone is saying that this is his big chance. If you look at the first Wimbledon he won and the Australian Open ’09, he was the clear underdog on both those occasions. He just doesn’t deal very well with expectation. But now with Murray’s loss there is just that much more expectation on him. Many people are already calling him the favorite for the title now since he always seems to beat Roger in grand slam finals. Of course this doesn’t mean Rafa can’t win the US Open, but the pressure is now on. You don’t win the calender slam by always being the underdog.
So far Rafa has gotten away by downplaying his chances, but I think if he is to win the US Open he will have to exorcise that demon of not liking to be the favorite. So if you think Roger has demons to exorcise against Soderling and Rafa, think again. Rafa has similar demons to deal with if not more. He may not have a difficult draw until the final, but I don’t think it’s any easier with Murray gone now. The pressure will really start to tell on Rafa now like we saw with Roger at the French Open last year. I wouldn’t be surprised if his remaining matches before the final turns out to be very tricky indeed, not to mention the final itself. As far as Roger goes I think he is in a pretty comfortable situation. He is making the racquet do the talking and showing that he means business. If it should be a Fedal final I think he would be pretty comfortable as well.
I mean he has won the thing five times already while Rafa will be in his first final with the pressure of completing the career slam. When Roger completed the career slam he faced Soderling in the final which was an easy match for him at the time. The best scenario for Rafa would be if Roger loses to Soderling now. That still doesn’t guarantee him the title, but it would mean he didn’t face either Del Potro, Murray or Roger on his way to the US Open title. On the other hand that would put even more pressure on him to win the title. Either way, I think it is clear that winning the career slam is by no means an easy task, no matter who you are. Both Roger and Agassi got oh so close to never achieving it…
Highlights: Sweet match point.