Is there anything Roger Federer can’t do with a racket? They don’t call the men’s grand slam record holder The Maestro for nothing.
In advancing to another U.S. Open final where he’ll meet sixth seeded Juan Martin Del Potro for a chance to match Bill Tilden’s six consecutive titles, the world’s top player pulled out all the stops in an ultra competitive straight sets 7-6 (3), 7-5, 7-5 win over a game fourth seeded Serb Novak Djokovic at Ashe this evening.
Sure. Djokovic pushed him by playing a very good match. Unfortunately, his best wasn’t enough to even get a set as Federer eliminated him a third consecutive year.
If all the talk centered around Serena Williams’ meltdown last night, at least it should be much more positive following Federer’s latest bag of tricks helping him get through in three against the former 2007 runner-up who he defeated.
Not much separated the two but Federer was just better on the bigger points coming back from a break to take a first set tiebreaker, clinching it with an easy putaway at the net.
In the opening set, the two players exchanged breaks in the sixth and seventh games with Djokovic unable to cement it playing a poor game in which his forehand let down frustrating the 22 year-old Serbian. He also would miss a routine backhand to go minibreak down at 2-4 which allowed a shaky Federer off the hook.
The second set was better with each combatant going stroke for stroke as they protected their serves. Djokovic did well from the baseline drawing some errors. But Federer hung in there with his serve finally up to speed. At the outset, the 28 year-old from Switzerland couldn’t make a first serve but that changes as the match went on with him near 60 percent while winning 78 percent (49 of 63). Djokovic also did well serving and winning at 68 percent on firsts.
Serving first, Federer kept the pressure on Nole by holding turning it into a similar match as his quarter win over Robin Soderling. The five-time reigning champ fared well at net winning 17 of 20 points in the middle frame. For the match, he converted 81 percent (29 of 36) to Djokovic’s 45 (9 of 20).
When there was any slight opening, each stepped up to hold with Federer holding for 6-5. Facing the prospect of another breaker, the opportunistic champion finally applied enough pressure on Djokovic’s serve to break for the second set. After he valiantly saved two break points, Nole couldn’t avoid the third thanks to some clutch shots from Federer.
First, a forehand winner got it back to Deuce. Then, with Djokovic looking to have the key point won at net, somehow he ran down a volley stabbing a low slice backhand which a stunned Djokovic netted. With the crowd urging on the underdog, there was little they could do when during a rally, Federer found the angle cracking his signature forehand down the line for a two set lead letting out an emphatic scream.
In grand slam history, Federer had never blown a two set lead. To his credit, Djokovic didn’t give up fighting hard in an entertaining third set that saw some splendid rallies including a 23 stroke one that the taller Serb ended with a forehand smack on the line which he successfully won on a challenge. If he didn’t win on the scoreboard, he certainly had much better success going six for seven on challenges with the end result of that rally resulting in grins on both players.
There also was an amazing point where Djokovic played great defense at the net continuing to get back half a dozen volleys before Federer closed with a forehand pass which the charasmatic Serb bowed in the opposite direction to get out of the way.
Indeed, a player who lost the fans last year following mistimed remarks after a quarter win over Andy Roddick won them back with how he conducted himself. Though he probably wished ‘tennis partner’ John McEnroe was back out on the court instead of Federer.
Each player fought hard in another tight set with both saving break points including a pair Djokovic saved that would’ve given Federer 5-3 and a chance to serve for it.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t push it to a tiebreak with the Sampras-like Federer finally getting him again in the 12th game breaking him at love.
It was how he got to match point that was most impressive. Already up Love-30, Federer hustled down a Djokovic lob volley and pulled off the shot of the tournament going to a between the legs winner which sailed by a shocked Djokovic who could only smile for triple match point to a thunderous ovation.
The shot even amazed the winner who when asked about it by CBS’ Mary Joe Fernandez, referred to it as “the greatest shot I’ve ever hit,” to chuckles.
Fittingly, he won with another nice shot punctuating it with a return forehand winner and a raise of the arms before Djokovic congratulated him as they shared a laugh about what had occurred.