I apologize for this entry being a little late; it has been an off week for me with Roger's walkover and then the rain delay on Tuesday, and then starting college this week (in journalism, go figure, right?).
For the first time since 2003, Roger Federer will not be participating in the final weekend of the US Open. He suffered a disappointing loss to Tomas Berdych, the #6 seed, in the quarterfinals late Wednesday night.
The last match Federer had played was on Saturday, when he took out Fernando Verdasco in the 3rd round. He was due to play on Monday, but his opponent, Mardy Fish, withdrew, citing health concerns as his reason. \as it would turn out, this withdrawal had a major impact in the outcome of Roger's quarter with the dangerous Czech.
Roger started well enough, grabbing a break in the first game of the match. He held that break until 3-2, when Berdych broke back. This is where the wheels began to fall off for the great Swiss. He held break point at 4-4 but failed to convert after dumping an overhead, and then in the tiebreak, he only won one point as the 2010 Wimbledon finalist stormed to a one set lead.
Fed got down a quick break in the second set and could not get back even. In the third set, it looked all but over when Berdych got a break in the first game. However, he stumbled midway through the set at 3-2, allowing Roger to gather some momentum, which had been avoiding him thus far. Suddenly, it looked like Fed was back to his best and he broke at 4-3 and held to take the third set. This dramatic turnaround only took about 15 minutes.
In the 4th, with all the momentum seemingly on Roger's side, it looked like the match may go to 5. But Roger relinquished the momentum back after not converting on a 0-30 chance in Berdych's service game early in the set. At 3-4, Fed went down 15-30 but hit a miraculous stab drop volley, saving himself. Then a point later a forehand hit the net cord and went long, bringing up break point, and Berdych smashed a forehand winner. 4 points later, Federer was upset 7-6(1), 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.
Throughout most of the match, Federer played poorly, missing routine forehands, and in general, never finding his rhythm. He hit 44 winners to 40 unforced errors, most of them off the forehand. He didn't serve as well as he is capable of, and in turn, Berdych served wonderfully well.
At the start of the 4th set, when all the momentum was with Federer, Berdych had to be thinking about the match these two played almost four years ago at the Australian Open in 2009, where he was ahead two sets to love and lost the match. However, in impressive fashion, Berdych played strong and weathered the Federer Express until Roger made the one crucial mistake that cost him the match - that net cord at 3-4 30-30.
It is a disappointing result for Roger, knowing that he had a wonderful summer and was the #1 player in the world again. The walkover really hurt him, as when he finally found his game, it was too late. Remember, he had 4 days off in between matches. He did not play at all on Monday (he could have practiced and didn't, which I consider a mistake), and on Tuesday it rained the entire day. For any player, but especially Roger, walkovers are the worst, as he thrives off rhythm and timing.
To be fair to Berdych, he did play an amazing match, and of course would have had a great chance at winning even if Roger had played on Monday. Against a lesser player like Almagro (for instance), Roger probably would have been fine to win his quarterfinal match, but not against a very dangerous player like Berdych. Roger had to be at his best to be able to beat the big guy, and he wasn't (or couldn't, depending on the way you look at it).
After initially being very upset with the loss as a Federer fan, I have come to be at peace with it. Roger had a bad day and he lost to the better player. This has still been a wonderful year with wining Wimbledon, getting back the #1 ranking, winning a silver medal, and picking up 3 Masters titles. Matches like these, where Roger plays tennis that isn't up to his standards remind us of how rare those occasions have been the past nine years. He was always on his game and always wary of the fact that one bad match could cost you a Slam, and therefore, he always stayed sharp and focused.
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The two men's quarterfinals in the bottom half of the draw, Tipsarevic vs Ferrer and Djokovic vs del Potro were amazing matches that featured brilliant tennis. Ferrer overcame a 3-0 deficit in the 5th set before rallying to win the match in a tiebreak, while Djokovic beat Delpo in straight sets, although very difficultly. Delpo played very hard in the final two sets and served for the second set, but Djokovic played his rear end off to get the break back and prevail in the tiebreak (after losing a 17-minute-ish long game where he had a few set point chances.
Marin Cilic displayed the great tennis that had him beat Andy Murray at the 2009 US Open, going up 6-3, 5-1 before choking away that set, and evidently, the match. Disappointing from Cilic's end, but from Andy's end, it must have been very sweet to pull off that comeback.
So the semifinals are set, Murray vs Tomas Berdych and Djokovic vs Ferrer. I'm not sure who to take in the Murray/Berdych match because Andy has looked shaky at times and Tomas has found the form that had been eluding him since the French Open. Djokovic vs Ferrer should be a straight sets win for Djokovic, even though Ferrer will play his heart out and fight for every point.
And don't think that the 5-set four and a half hour quarterfinal will tire Ferrer out. He's the fittest guy on tour and he'll be ready to go right from the start. Unfortunately for him, as has been the case against the top players for years now, that won't be good enough.