Saturday, 21 January 2017

A Federer Clinic

Roger Federer should have found his toughest test yet in tenth seed Tomas Berdych in the third round of the 2017 Aus Open.  Although Federer enjoyed a 16-6 head to head record over the Czech player, he was clearly at the latter stages of his career, and the effect of the long lay-off in a big match against a top ten player was still an unknown.

Tomas proved anything but tough, however, and Federer turned on a performance to delight his host of fans.

What was ultimately to come wasn't initially signalled when Berdych held serve in game one on the back of some Federer mistakes and sealed it with an ace.  After two successive double faults left Roger at 30-30, there were more than a few slight groans, but a collective audible sigh replaced the groans, upon watching the ace and following serve, which was as good as.

After Berdych again looked solid on serve to lead 2-1, Federer hit two forehand winners and two unreturnable serves to join the tenth seed at 2-2.
That was enough thought Roger, and he then dismantled Tomas for the remainder of set one, and it wasn't pretty to watch, at least at one end of the court.

The first service break came in the fifth game, Federer's forehand giving Berdych a decent working over.
In the seventh game, Berdych had two game points, but Roger was too mean to allow either of those to be converted, so hit a winner and forced errors from both Czech sides to claim a second break.

The set was wrapped up in under half an hour 6-2 and Berdych was as stunned as we were impressed.  

His confidence badly affected, the backhand performed poorly and Berdych found himself quickly down break points in the opening game of set two.  A useless forehand finally cost him the break and Federer was given the dream start as if he needed the gift, given the form he was independently showing.

The rest of the set was necessary only for administrative purposes, as neither player seemed intent on breaking the trend which was clear.  So we were treated to lots more Federer brilliance and reminders of why Berdych is where he is, but no more hints of trouble on serve.  Federer led 6-2 6-4.

Trying to support Berdych to make a comeback in the match is frustrating, as he is so inconsistent, as evidenced in the first game of set three.  An ace, then double fault, then another ace.  30-15 and you would think safe to hold serve.  But no, vulnerable, and left stranded as two straight backhand winners wizzed by him to secure the killer break for Federer.

That gave him the luxury once more of putting on a superb display for the crowd for the rest of the set, which in the end was the rest of the match, won in an hour and a half 6-2 6-4 6-4.
Federer into the round of sixteen to face fifth seed Kei Nishikori, who hopefully may provide sterner competition than an at times predictable Berdych.

For his part, this was one of Roger's more complete performances in some time, even before his injury.

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