Roger Federer made his way to the quarterfinals of the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati by rallying past Tommy Haas 1-6, 7-5, 6-3 in a match that saw the 17-time Slam champ come back from a set and a break down.
The first set was quite disastrous to say the least, and the German stormed off with it 6-1 on the back of two breaks. For the first half of the second set, it was much of the same story as Haas broke in the opening game to hold a firm grip on the match. Until the real Roger Federer showed up.
For the first 13 games of the match everything was going Haas' way. And then he played one loose game and allowed Roger back into it. From then on, the momentum slowly started turning to the Swiss' side. All in all, he ended up winning 5 of the last 6 games of the second set and headed into the third with momentum. In that deciding set, they split the first six games but then Roger went up another gear in the eighth game to break and then he hit a forehand winner on his first match point to seal the deal.
You can split this match into two halves, the first and the second. In the first, Roger was playing pretty poorly and showed the kind of form (or lack thereof) he's been showing much of this year. But in the second half, what we witnessed was closer to the old Roger, the one with the free flowing game and gleaming confidence.
The Fed served at 66% for the whole match, which is pretty decent overall. He hit 43 winners to 39 errors, and converted on 3 of 12 break point chances.
It was a scrappy win but right now that may be just what Roger needs. I think back to the come-from-behind win against Davydenko at Rotterdam last year where he was also down a set and a break and most think that the win in that contest raised his confidence and helped propel him to that magnificent run he had between February and August.
It is going to get a whole lot harder however as next up is Rafael Nadal, who overcame Grigor Dimitrov 6-2, 5-7, 6-2. Nadal has been in great form pretty much the entire year and backed up his great success on the clay this spring with a win in Montreal on the hardcourts last week. He did not look as sharp as usual against the young Bulgarian, but you can be rest assured that he'll have his A game against Roger in the quarters.
So what are Roger's chances of pulling off the upset? He is most certainly the underdog here, no matter how much Rafa will say that he is not the favourite. Fed must serve well and be patiently aggressive in order to succeed. The good news is that he appears to be healthy and has served very well in his first two matches. Also, the fast Cincinnati courts should help him win more free points than usual off his delivery. Being "patiently aggressive" basically means to not go for broke too early and work the point until an opening comes to go for the kill. Fed must approach the net intelligently and not give Rafa any momentum from hitting passing shots. And perhaps most importantly, Roger must return well. He needs to hit over the backhand as much as possible and stepping over to his backhand side before the serve would help things out to get a quicker jump on the ball.
Before the tournament my expectations were for Federer to make the quarterfinals and then from there see what happens. I won't be disappointed if Roger doesn't win, as it will take a great effort, but at the same time I wouldn't be surprised if Roger played a great match and shocked us all.
Hoping for the best tomorrow,
This is my tennis blog, Lefty Advantage. Tennis is my biggest passion in life and I started this site to discuss the great game. I mainly follow the career of Roger Federer, but I truly love watching all tennis, whether it be the final of a Grand Slam or a junior tournament on the other side of the world.
I have played tennis for 13 years. If you ever met me, I could talk your head off about all things tennis for hours on end if you would let me. Welcome, and enjoy the writing!