A Tough Road for Federer

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Before tonight’s clash against big serving Canadian Milos Raonic, let’s take a look at the potential match-ups Federer could come across in the quest for his 18th Grand Slam title. Federer has been handed possibly the toughest of draws of the top 4, and despite neatly taking care of rising Aussie Bernard Tomic, his draw does not ease up in the slightest.

Tonight’s matchup against Milos Raonic is a tough one for Federer. Despite a 3-0 head to head record, all matches have gone to a deciding set, with 4 out of the 9 sets played decided by a tiebreaker. For these matches, surface hasn’t really been a deciding factor, as all 3 have been played on the three main surfaces being grass, hard-court and clay, so I believe that can be disregarded tonight. Despite these tough matches, Federer should be able to come away with the win for a few reasons.

Firstly, I think the main thing that is in Federer’s favour tonight is the night session in which it is taking place. Cooler conditions at night will slow the ball down, making the Raonic first serve a bit less deadly. He needs a monster serving night regardless, but I just think that the heavier atmosphere will make it easier for Federer to get a look in during the Raonic service games. Secondly, Federer has never in his career had trouble with big servers. A combined 35-5 record against the big servers of his time in Roddick, Karlovic and Isner shows he has no problem against the big hitter. This can be put down to a great return game, where he makes many returns lower ranked players have no business making. Federer’s ability to hold his service games with ease will also place further pressure on Raonic. Finally, Federer is the master at moving the ball around the court. Opponents are constantly stretching, especially when Federer is on the offence. Look for him to exploit a questionable mover in Raonic, where side to side plays may be key to Roger’s success. So much like their previous encounters, this match should be tightly contested, but clutch play in the big points should see Federer through to another quarter final.

Next up, according to form and seedings, he will meet Jo-Wifried Tsonga. On his day, big Jo is unstoppable, so whilst out of his hands, Federer will hope to get the Frenchman on an off day. Arguably their best match, and one that definitely showed how Tsonga can defeat Federer was the 2011 Wimbledon Quarter Final, where Tsonga gave Fed his first loss from being 2 sets to 0 up. His brutality from the back of the court was on full show, where punishing groundstrokes were the order of the day. These gave Federer no time to manoeuvre the ball around into a favourable position, meaning Tsonga could fully dictate play. Federer needs to be on the front foot in this contest from the first ball. I think the best way to break down Tsonga is to attack the backhand relentlessly. While he seems to have added a bit of juice to it over the off season, it still isn’t as strong as his forehand, in both consistency and power. By stepping around his backhand and angling a short and wide forehand into the backhand he will be able to get control of the baseline. Worth mentioning is their only Australian Open matchup where Fed towelled him up in straight sets with some of the best tennis he’s ever played. I don’t think it will be this easy this time round, but again, another Federer win.

The semi-final stage is the one we’ve been waiting for since the Olympics. A Federer-Murray Grand Slam encounter. Before the Olympics, Murray hadn’t taken out Fed in a best-of-five sets match, but an easy straight sets win saw Murray the gold medallist at his beloved Wimbledon. Murray played this match as he always should against Federer – stepping up in the court and pushing Federer out to his backhand. He has had trouble with this in the past, whether it was the nerves of the situation or the under-developed forehand of previous years, but this contest will be an interesting one. Both players love the surface, both haven’t dropped a set so far in the tournament. Both are serving well and crisp returning is seeing them run away with a lot of matches. Federer must be at close to his best in this match, otherwise its going to be hard to push Murray off the baseline. One way Federer can do this is to take advantage of Murray’s second serve. Even though it has improved, it is still a liability against better players. His 3rd round match he only managed to win 38% of 2nd serve points, showing just how vulnerable it can be. Federer can attack this and put him in a positive baseline position for returning games. A tough match for Fed, but if he’s on his game it will be tough to beat him.

So if all goes well for Fed, Novak Djokovic will be waiting for him in the final. After last nights epic encounter with Wawrinka, Djokovic will no doubt step it up again to make the final. Federer-Djokovic matches have always been tough contests with usually only a few point determining each set, and don’t expect this to be any different. However, Djokovic’s match against Wawrkina gives Federer a great look at vulnerabilities of Djokovic. Playing quite a similar brand of tennis to Wawrinka, especially in regards to their singlehanded backhands, Federer will no doubt look to exploit his advantage. The Wawrinka combination of hard forehand wide into the Djokovic forehand and then a devastating backhand into the open court was a crucial play for Stan. Apart from this manoeuvre, this match will be all about who can take advantage of the big moments. Clutch plays under pressure are a given for both of these players, as shown by Fed’s 2nd set tiebreaker against Tomic, as well as the conclusion of the Djokovic-Wawrinka match.  The 2 best players in the world will definitely bring it for this match, with the conclusion too hard to tell.

So a very difficult road for Roger ahead in this Grand Slam, but as he’s done over the past 10 years, he comes up with big plays in the right moments. His desire and competitiveness is as strong as ever, so anybody doubting his ability to take out another Grand Slam does so at their own peril.

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Religiously tennis - senior coach at Canberra School of Tennis, playing and watching. Sydney Swans nut and fan of the five day game.

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