US Open Rd 4: Federer def Melzer 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-3, Soderling Rematch Next!

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.

Roger Federer

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  1. I think the big three (Roger, Novak and Robin) all will have a lot less pressure than Nadal to win the final should one of them face him for the title.

    Roger we’ve already covered :-P

    Should Djokovic make the final instead of Roger I think he too would have a distinct mental edge over Nadal. First he already has won a Slam so he know how to win one. Second, he’s been to a US Open final and played pretty well in that one. Third, he has an awesome 7-3 hardcourt record vs Nadal.

    Soderling would have a little less pressure especially since Nadal beat him the last two Slams so he could feel like an underdog. And going for your first Slam is not as tough as the historic Career Slam.


  2. Hi there,
    Excellent observations as usual. I do have a question though. Everyone keeps saying that if Federer brings his best to the match, it will be tough for Soderling. But what does that mean in terms of execution? How does he blunt the force of Sod’s shots, if they are firing on all cylinders? I’m hoping that having Annacone in his corner will help Fed give up the notion that he can hang with these brutal guys in rallies, and instead use his variety—but what that means I’m not sure. Does variety mean he change up speeds, come forward (that’s not easy when you have someone blasting balls at you!) or does he make Soderling run? I haven’t heard an answer to what the ideal game plan for Federer should be. So, some details would be helpful to think about. As a recreational player (i’m about a 4.5), I play mainly with men who blast their groundstrokes constantly, and as much as I love it and enjoy the challenge, it requires a lot of craftiness to win points instead of slugging it out with them. I don’t mean to say I know what the hell Federer should do, but simply that even from my lowly club player level, that stuff is very hard to overcome.

    As for Nadal, I don’t buy the pressure stuff. That guy is made of steely reserve and relishes the challenge. He’s not a callow youth, and as I sit here watching him destroy Lopez, I can sense his confidence growing. The only hope here is that he has a tough semi with Verdasco who can certainly match him for strokes. Nadal hasn’t really been tested and Lopez appears to be more interested in how he looks than in the game he is producing.

    Ta in advance for your response


    Ru-an Reply:

    I dont really know what he needs to do. I have thought about this before. When a guy like Soderling plays well he is just so tough to beat for Roger. He can try certain tactics but will it really make a difference? He said in his presser what he should which is to serve well, return well, move him around and clean up his own game. I think he can do these things and win, but like i said it will probably be very close despite that.
    About Nadal, after having watched him tonight, i dont buy the pressure stuff either. He is just so good mentally that he is immune to pressure. The only way he is not winning this is if someone plays a super human match against him.


  3. Nadal pressure? playing against all the Spaniards,they all bow down to their master Nadal. An easy rosd to the final,I´ve turned off my TV.already , just know it would be a ridiculous match(12-1 points to Nadal in the first 3 games).In my opinion Roger has all the pressure, losing points and everybody praising Nadal.
    Nadal has nothing to lose, nor points,nor his status nor his N1.So what´s the point?
    But I believe in Roger he will do his racquet do the talking.Go Roger Go!!!


  4. Harsh as it this may appear, the spanish minions are really afraid of Nadal. They have such high respect for Nadal that they are not capable of beating him anymore on any given day! Not to take any credit against Nadal, I don’t think the rest of his spanish armada players has the self-belief to even stretch Nadal. Nadal seems to be coping well with the pressure of getting close to winning career GS. As for Roger, I hope he brings in his A-game to beat Le Sod. I think he can do it and I want him to lift 6th USOpen!!!


  5. Against Sod, Fed needs to be focused; if there is no concentration lapse on his part, I don’t see any reason why he shouldn’t win. The level of play Fed has displayed so far in US Open 2010, will definitely allow him to be ruthless against Sod; and we have seen on quite a few occasions that even this new Sod (we have seen in the last couple of years) is quite vulnerable to such pressure and prone to losing his temper and game.

    Hey, why worry? Paul is there to take care of all this stuff and Fed knows pretty well how to execute them. If an exceptional talent like Fed cannot execute it, who can? COME ON ROGER!


  6. One thing that Federer should do, that he failed to do in Paris, is to keep Sod behind the baseline when it’s possible. That will give him more time (relatively) to return Sod’s rockets and try to move him from side to side (though it takes a lot of physical effort). In Paris, Federer’s returns were weak and fell in the center of the court so it was so easy for Sod to set up his bombs. I still don’t know how Fed should deal with Sod pounding his backhand.


  7. Still Federer’s situation in 2009 RG and Nadal’s situation is different.

    In 2009 Federer had proven himself in Australian Open, US Open and Wimbledon. He had more than 3 titles on each. But today this is not the situation for Nadal. It is not like he is finished with every other slam and the only one remained is US Open. Maybe this is what he refers by saying his situation is different from Federer’s. He still has a lot to do.


  8. Of course Nadal is not going to feel pressure against his fellow Spaniards who idolize him (how did Ferrer beat him here 3 years ago again?!)

    Nadal got very lucky with the draw. If he had gotten a player like Cilic or Gulbis as a 4th round opponent he might have felt a little more pressure. He’s had tougher draws in ATP 500 events!

    Nadal is going to HAVE to lose a set or show signs vulnerability. Remember this is his WORSE SURFACE BY FAR. Roger has only won ONE Slam without dropping a set. How the heck can Nadal win the US Open without dropping a set when Roger and Pete haven’t done it. They are the two best fast hardcourt players in the open era. How could Nadal outperform their best US Open when it’s his WORST SLAM?!


  9. People are also forgetting this very important fact: Nadal has not won a hardcourt tournament in 1 1/2 years. He’s played 15 hardcourt tournaments since then and has made two finals and lost both of those (both to Davydenko).

    Nadal has proven nothing with this cakewalk draw so far. Breezing through the draw to the final against a match tough opponent can really backfire sometimes. Roger often says that having too many easy matches isn’t always a good thing.

    If Nadal gets to the final and plays Roger or Novak he will be playing a superior hardcourt player who had a much tougher draw to get to the final than he did. You thin Roger or Novak won’t break Nadal’s serve at all? I doubt it!


  10. I think I found my answer today. Federer played SMART tennis. Clearly, things are different this time around. He didn’t try to get into ridiculous hitting rallies with the Sod, used the wind and his variety to win efficiently. And what’s up with the insane aces in these conditions? What impressed me most was his break point conversion rate. I think he was 90% on that. One of the key factors in the last few years has been his low breakpoint conversion rate. This doesn’t mean I think he’s going to blow the Djoker away but it gives me confidence that he’s changed things up. And his backhand has been consistent too.
    What say you, Ruan?


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