Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Federer back and winning

It was a battle of the oldies - 35 year olds Roger Federer and Jurgen Melzer slowly wandered out onto Rod Laver Arena, bones creaking and cracking, determined to make their own way, leaving their walking frames behind in the locker room.

The two veterans, from Switzerland and Austria respectively, 17 Grand Slam titles between them, received a deafening roar on arrival - I was unaware of the rock star popularity of Melzer - and we were ready for an interesting battle.
The return of Federer to competition tennis after a lengthy enforced break - yes he played Hopman Cup but this is something again.
And Melzer, in 2011 a top ten player, now having to win through qualifying just to make the main draw.

Well the old men certainly were in a rush to complete this match as the first four games were over in about eight minutes, and hardly a point against the serve.  Roger was anything but his smooth graceful shotmaking self, but didn't appear too concerned.  Melzer was happy just to be there exchanging pleasantries with Roger in front of a packed gallery.

To our shock and horror, it was Roger who blinked first, netting a volley he'd normally make without looking in the sixth game, which brought the score to 30-30 on his serve.  Melzer pounced and on break point produced a backhand winner to take a 4-2 lead.

The Austrian had a point for a 5-2 lead but one of a number of unforced errors in the seventh game proved his undoing and Federer ultimately broke back for 3-4.
Serve was held for the next little while, far more easily by Federer, who once he'd levelled at 5-5 poured all his resources into a sustained attack on the Melzer delivery. 

Forehand to the fore, Roger broke to love and then served out the set, also to love, sealed as he so often chooses, with an ace. 7-5 Switzerland.

Melzer was not a happy chappy, and had even less reason to be when Federer continued to hit winners and deny Austria any points in the opening game of set two, aka another service break.
As a humanitarian gesture, Federer donated three points to Melzer in his next service game, but still gave the masses the thrill of his forehand and an occasional ace to ensure he won the game and took a 2-0 lead.

To prove he was still alive and kicking, in the sixth game Melzer had Federer in trouble. Roger took care of the first break point, but then inexplicably threw in a couple of useless forehands to hand back the break. 3-3.

Jurgen held serve to love on the back of backhand mistakes from Roger, and then a series of winners from both wings were just too good for the Swiss maestro, whose serve was broken to love. 5-3.
Melzer was about to serve for the second set.

Federer saved one set point with a beautiful backhand.  A not so pretty backhand on the second set point and Melzer had squared the match at 5-7 6-3.

Losing a set from the position he was in is not Federer-like.
He set about fixing things.
As the third set progressed, the Federer game improved and coincidentally the Melzer game began to lose its edge.  The Austrian started to find the net more often, was being passed a little easier, rushed in his shot making, and generally the gulf between the two players talent wise could be seen both on court and on the scoreboard.

Federer broke Melzer in the fourth game essentially due to Austrian mistakes, but serving at 2-5, Melzer was swamped by the brilliance of Federer and at 0-30 the pressure proved too much.  Roger led 7-5 3-6 6-2.

Serving aces apparently at will, Federer began set four in style, but it took until the fourth game again for the break to occur.  This time it was a suite of winners from Roger's racquet which spoiled Jurgen's party.  No chance of stopping the Fed Express and 3-1 became 5-2 as in the third set.

A couple of loose backhands from Melzer put him in danger, but it ended up being a forehand error that finished the match.

Roger Federer successfully into the second round 7-5 3-6 6-2 6-2

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