James Crabtree is currently in Melbourne Park covering the Australian Open for Tennis Grandstand and is giving you all the scoop directly from the grounds.
By James Crabtree
MELBOURNE — History was not on the side of Canadian Milos Raonic. In fact when the vast majority of the tour face Federer, statistics and history are not on their side.
No Canadian, not including defectors, had ever made it to a grand slam quarter final. Federer on the other hand has reached the grand slam quarterfinals 34 consecutive times. That is 136 victories, a hefty number to shift, meaning Federer doesn’t lose unless his opponent truly deserves to be there. It also means that Federer is a perfect employee, never taking a day off.
The big Canuck is an interesting specimen, duly if Andy Roddick and Richard Krajicek had a baby, Milos Raonic would be the result, although no speculation exists for that union to ever take place.
Indeed, if you squinted your eyes and used your imagination only slightly, you might well have been watching a Federer Roddick match, and the result of those was usually fail-safe.
This was never going to resemble a clay court match, with Milos going for glory early with big serves or cracking groundstrokes, knowing full well if he tried to out rally he was doomed. Federer meanwhile relished the ball in play, bullying the Raonic backhand every chance he had.
“I think I played tactically well tonight and was able to keep the points short on my own service games, used the 1-2 punch. That was obviously also a good thing tonight.” Federer stated in his post match press conference.
Quickly Federer started to read the massive Raonic serve, although initially he could only muster a block return although instinctively returning the ball from within the baseline.
Raonic was in trouble when 2-3 down in the first set facing a few break points. Calmly he fired two Sampras style aces, causing all worry of a break to simply vanish.
At 4-5 the tension built again, giving Federer a set point. As has so often been the case the computer assistance was switched on, unfairly in Federer’s advantage, prompting Raonic to net a relatively easy volley.
Of considerable interest is Federer’s chameleon approach, feeling the need to better his opponent when it comes to their particular strength. To which Federer stated, “Important obviously was first to focus on my own serve before even thinking about how to return Milos. But I did a good job tonight. As the match went on, I started to feel better. But that’s kind of normal.”
The second set continued much like the first although Raonic held his nerve longer. This time the set wasn’t decided until 3-3 in the tiebreak. Federer took the advantage by delivering a Wawrinka inspired backhand down the line that could only make you wonder if great backhands were given away for free in Swiss cereal boxes.
Federer’s scream of joy directed towards his entourage was heard throughout the arena, whilst Raonic ambled despondently to his chair, with more on mind his than just the overwhelming score line. Raonic told reporters, “well, long story short, until probably 45 minutes to an hour before the match, I wasn’t even sure I’d play. I rushed over to get a quick MRI on my foot. I was having issues walking. I got the clear to play after that. I just had an anaesthesia injection into my foot. I was given the go to play.”
Subsequently Raonic stumbled to open the third set, and kept on stumbling. Federer meanwhile was on autopilot, treating the crowd to a level of on court purity that only a very small amount of players experience, breezing to victory 6-4, 7-6, 6-2.
“Most of the times you play good, you know. When you play very good, that’s rare. So just have to try to have as many good days or great days as you can, and that’s why I push hard in practice and keep myself in shape.”
Federer faces Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the next round marking his 35th straight quarterfinal.
Ryan Harrison nearly forced a third set against Roger Federer today at the Sony Ericsson Open, but the Swiss prevailed 6-2, 7-6(3) in just under one-and-a-half hours on court. In his post-match press conference, Harrison talked about his expectation to win every match, why he doesn’t set ranking or tournament performance goals, and Federer’s renewed authority on court.
In the match, Federer easily broke Harrison during the second and eighth game of the first set, and after Federer was up 5-2 in the second, Harrison broke back and evened out the score to 5-5. Then things got interesting. Two quick errors by Federer, an error in line calling, and an interruption in play that caused Federer to stop playing all helped to escalate the energy on stadium court near the end of the final set.
With 28 winners, five aces and 3-of-8 break points won, Federer was clearly the better player but Harrison commented on Federer’s renewed authority on court:
“… from like a game standpoint, you can tell that [Federer is] hitting his shots with just like a complete conviction and confidence as opposed to … some times last year … he didn’t look like he had the same authority on a shot that he had.
… I mean, coming off of his match, as many matches as he has this year, he’s got this like authority about his game right now where he’s hitting his shots knowing he’s gonna make ’em. It’s gonna make it difficult for anyone to beat him.”
Harrison continued with his revelations and talked about his expectation to win:
“As a player you’re always looking to win every match, and it starts one at a time. [You may] get stuck for a month or two or however long it is … [but] there’s nobody that’s ever been happy with being stuck unless you’re at No. 1. (Smiling.)
That’s the only time you’ll ever be happy being stuck. Every day you’re gonna look to improve. You’re gonna approach every match ‑ at least I am ‑ with the expectation of winning.
Just if you’d ask me going into this week, What’s what’s your expectation for the tournament, I’d say, I’m gonna try to win every match and do as well as I can and try to win the tournament.
Didn’t win this week, so I’m gonna look for it to happen next week. That’s the way I’m gonna approach things.”
Finally, Harrison addressed his ranking and tournament performance goals with an air of maturity far beyond his years. This is outright one of the best explanations for why not to set goals, and quite honestly, it makes sense:
“I don’t believe in setting a specific ranking goal or a specific round that you want to get to.
Because let’s say I would have chose, ‘Let’s get to the round of 16 here. Okay?’ Then I get to the round of 16, well am I going to go into the match expecting to lose? What happens then?
… So ultimately what I’m gonna look to do is every day at practice, every day in a match, I’m gonna try and work on the things and incorporate the things that need to improve, whether it be higher first serve percentage today or being a little more aggressive with my forehand, looking to come in a little more, just different things that I need to improve on.
Hopefully that gets me where I want to go, which is ultimately in contention for Grand Slams. Obviously I’ve got a ways to go to get there, but that’s the ultimate goal.”
By Ritesh Gupta
The ball went up in the air and the way it swirled in the cold windy conditions, it looked as if the server completely lost the connection with the ball for that split second. He decided not to connect and chose to have a re-go at it. Nothing unusual till this point, especially considering the playing conditions. But what stood out was the way all of this was taken in his stride by the server, without even a semblance of uneasiness. In fact, what he did before returning to his service stance, exemplified what the man, who happened to be Roger Federer, is all about.
As Federer took steps towards the service line, with his collar going up and down, and hair continuously being blown away, he chose to stretch his arms!
Now be it for being calm about intricacies of playing in such environment or focusing on the job at hand, Federer just goes about tennis as if nothing can come in between him and his sport.
All this happened during the early stages of the third set of his eventual 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 win over Robin Soderling in the quarterfinals of the US Open.
Going by the style of play of the two players, especially the high service toss and the huge forehand swing of Soderling, one would be tempted to say that the Swede definitely was expected to have a tough time vis-a-vis his opponent. Even if one considers this, the way Federer served against Soderling was simply immaculate. Soderling served bigger, but Federer was much better in the same department. The Swiss maestro served 18 aces to Soderling’s two.
The service statistics for the match show how Federer adapted to the conditions. But for him, it was just another day.
In the post match, on-court interview, Federer said if he can’t serve in the windy conditions, after doing all this in his life, then there is definitely problem out there! He said be it for 2 o’clock or 4 o’clock in the morning, he can be taken out of the bed and he would still be able to serve. When a man of Federer’s stature says all this, it definitely isn’t arrogance. Its just sheer passion for the sport.
Other than his positive attitude, Federer looked in prime touch.
Soderling struggled and looked very unsettled at times. He missed four breakpoints in the first set. On the other hand, Federer converted on his first opportunity and that is all he needed.
Soderling broke Federer with a great defensive return followed by a passing shot early on in the second set. But the Swede was again broken in the following game. In fact, the slide was started by an error from Soderling to finish the game at 40-0 at 2-1. A high ball, which swirled, resulted in the Swede attempting a stroke in an awkward position. After that, his forehand deserted him twice. On the other side, Federer just went about his task the way he usually does.
Soderling exerted pressure in the third set but Federer soaked in all of it, in fact at times showing great defensive skills. The Swede did break in the eight game to go up 5-3. But Federer again broke back immediately, as Soderling netted two forehands at 30-30. Continuing in the same vein, the Swiss wrapped up the set and the match in the 12th game.
Federer is now 16-0 in night matches played on Arthur Ashe Stadium. This victory signals Federer’s readiness for the battle against Novak Djokovic for a place in the final. The triumph also resulted in a settling of scores as Soderling had beaten Federer in their last meeting at the French Open.
Lisa Grebe talks about Rafael Nadal’s first singles appearance at the Rogers Cup. After a tough and nailbiting first set versus Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka , Rafa picks up the pace and shows Stan who’s the man. He takes home the win with a 7-6 6-3 win. The tie break took 92 minutes and was the longest in the Spaniard’s career.
“My goal was to win,” Nadal said. “When you come back after (some) time without playing, tournaments are always difficult. I just tried my best and tried to find my rhythm.”
Rafael Nadal now faces Kevin Anderson on Thursday at the Rogers Cup.
Wednesday was a “G’Day” for the home Aussies at the Sydney International. Lleyton Hewitt needed just 55 minutes to beat Andreas Seppi 6-0, 6-2 to advance into the quarterfinals. The win avenged a loss to Seppi in Sydney’s quarterfinals four years ago after wasting two match points; Also 30-year-old Aussie Peter Luczak reached first ATP-quarterfinal in his home country after 1-6 6-4 6-2 win over Tomas Berdych.
The Spaniards are the main force at the Heineken Open in Auckland where they comprise of the top four seeds. However, only two of them advanced to the quarterfinals. Swiss qualifier Michael Lammer, 27, advanced to the first ATP-quarterfianl when he led 3:1 in the first set when his opponent, Juan Carlos Ferrero (No. 3 seed), was forced to retire (sprained right ankle).