Roger’s still got it. Not that the 13-time slam winner ever lost it.
Pitted against America’s best Andy Roddick renewing a one-sided rivalry though last year in Miami proved different for only the second time in 17 meetings, Roger Federer rose to the occasion again ousting the No.7 seed in straight sets 6-2, 7-5, 7-5 advancing to his fourth Australian Open Final- one huge win away from matching American great Pete Sampras for the most grand slams won by a male tennis player.
It was the 27 year-old Swiss former No.1 who ceased early control breaking Roddick in the third game producing the kind of tennis fans have grown accustomed to passing the game’s biggest server with ease to the tune of 51 winners.
Even after Roddick saved a couple and looked in position to fight off a third straight, a hustling Federer slid across in time ripping a forehand winner down the line. It was that kind of night with the No.2 seed even having success with challenges winning consecutive points on his serve while already up two breaks.
Normally, the man known as The Maestro doesn’t like the challenge system preferring to leave it up to the linesmen and chair umpire for overrules. But on a night he could do little wrong, Federer was even perfect on challenges getting more than half a dozen right to Roddick’s chagrin.
When he wasn’t having challenge success, he was deliberately daring Roddick to come in by using short low spinning backhand replies so he could set him up for the kill. In a brilliant opening set, Federer’s forehand was on producing 11 winners while his opponent struggled early.
However, this wasn’t like Juan Martin Del Potro as Roddick ratcheted up the serve nailing five of eight aces in a much more competitive second set. He even dug out of triple break point during the first game serving large and coming up with the right stuff to keep the pressure on Federer.
The problem was Federer was having even an easier time holding winning 83 percent (52 of 63) on his first serve along with a respectable 58 percent (19 of 33) on second serve for the match. While Roddick struggled during service games facing 13 break chances, the efficient Federer only gave him three cracks and each time they were only one in a game which wasn’t enough given the three-time Australian Open winner’s penchant for serving aces to climb out of trouble.
Still, a more aggressive Roddick continued to press on attacking the net though without great success (21 of 42). The second set remained tight with the 26 year-old Austin, Texas resident holding for 4-3. With a couple of big returns setting up winners in the next game, he was two points from breaking and getting a chance to serve it out and level the match.
But a resilient Federer dug out of trouble without facing a break point eventually reversing the pressure and then breaking Roddick at love in the 11th game to lead 6-5. He served it out for a commanding two set lead.
Unlike the one sided match they had two years ago in the same semifinal, Roddick didn’t go away playing even better in the third set holding more easily and hitting even bigger during rallies with some success to the capacity Rod Laver Arena crowd’s delight. His best moment came midway through the set when during a great rally, he surprised Federer with a topspin backhand drop shot winner out of his reach smiling even remarking that he got him with the kind of shot Roger can pull off.
Still, Roddick couldn’t capitalize with Federer going down the tee for aces even doubling up in that department by a 16-8 margin.
It continued to be a test of wills with each player protecting their serve as if it were a game of chess. Roddick had a slight opening up 5-4 and two points away from the set but Federer saved his best serving for those moments winning challenges and taking the next three points to hold for five all.
Sensing the kill, he turned on the switch nailing a backhand and forehand pass in succession taking the first couple of points on Roddick’s serve to groans from the crowd. He’d eventually setup two break points but a game Andy wouldn’t crack just yet coming through with a couple of winners including a putaway.
However, Federer finally converted on another chance ripping a backhand pass which Roddick could only get a stab at the net helplessly watching it sail long giving Roger his fourth break of the match.
After Roddick took the first point, Federer won the next three setting up two match points. During an extended rally, he finished it in style slugging a forehand winner up the line to clinch victory with a pump of the fist before being congratulated by a classy Roddick at the net.
With legendary Rod Laver in the building, Federer moved one step closer to tying Sampras’ 14 slams. Could his next opponent be No.1 ranked Rafael Nadal which would elevate their rivalry even further setting up the first ever battle for a major on a hard court?
We’ll just have to wait and see. Nadal will take on fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco later tonight with the improving No.14 seed playing the best tennis of his career ousting last year’s runner-up Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in four sets the day before 7-6 (2), 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.