By Anjali Banerjee
There are champions in Sports and then there is Roger Federer. First time in his career, the Five time US Open champion had to play back to back five setters in the First and second rounds of a Grand Slam. These also have brought out the ghosts of injury-worries to the fore, those that otherwise lay in the closets for a while and raised eyebrows over his fitness. In the wake of these extremely grueling five set matches, it can be the right time to reflect upon all the five setters that he has managed to win in 2017. Roger Federer is enjoying a season of resurgence, hoping to win his 20th overall and a third Grand Slam in a year at New York.
Roger Federer Grand Slam
A Recap of Roger Federer’s FIVE setter matches in this year of 2017.
Australian Open : Against Kei Nishikori in the third round
Three hours 24 minutes, Federer proved his mettle to vanquish doubts of his dwindling form and fitness against time. Beating the Japanese Kei Nishikori in 5 sets under the lights of the Rod Laver, he treated fans to some high octane tennis which is etched in the hearts of every ardent tennis fan.
After six months staying away, Federer’s fairytale return continued in Melbourne where he emphatically crushed doubts about his fitness in that scintillating encounter. Pulling down the No 5 seed 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 he made sure of a quarter final berth at the Australian Open. With this he proved that he still is famished for victories which was evident from that tooth and nail fight with the fired up Kei. Treated to a standing ovation, the Rod Laver Arena stood testimony to the fact that age was only a number for Roger Federer and a lesson for each of us.
Australian Open semi final against Stan Wawrinka
A thrilling match which lasted 3 hours 4 minutes. It was Incredible tennis from both. But Sport is cruel and there can be only one winner. It was Roger Federer that day. Federer used his precision, his net-skills and his creativity to keep Wawrinka at bay and to grab a two set lead. This was when the injury time outs ensued. The first to take the MTO was Wawrinka and was surprising how after returning he just took command of the show. He started to strike the ball more freely, thunderous groundstrokes to drag Federer into submission and have him struggle around the court. The contest was soon level at two sets all. This was when Roger took a time-out of full 8 minutes. Usually he never is heard of such time outs. He has taken only eight medical time-outs in 1,331 matches – or one every couple of seasons.
I only did take the timeout because I thought, ‘He took one already, maybe I can take one for a change,’ because I’m not a believer that we should be allowed to take a lot of time-outs. But I took it after the set break. People know I don’t abuse the system.” Federer said after the match. The time out worked positively on Roger and he sent the World no 3 packing with an emphatic 7-5, 6-3, 1-6, 4-6, 6-3 victory.
Australian Open Final against Nadal
Another 5 setter and the epic amongst all at that, the Australian Open Final against old nemesis Rafael Nadal. This win gave him the coveted 18th Grand Slam title. It was even more precious because it came after a long injury layoff and at the age of 35 when pundits had already written him off. It gave the sporting world the most soulful moments as the Greatest of All time cried, going down on his knees at the Rod Laver Arena. A 3 hour 34 minutes showdown sent fans in a frenzy. We had never seen him weep like that since he lost to Rafael Nadal in the 2009 final at the same venue.
I’m out of words and Rafa said so many great things,” he said. “I’d like to congratulate Rafa on an amazing comeback. I don’t think either of us thought we’d be in the finals when we were at your academy four or five years ago. I’d just like to thank my team. It’s been a different last six months. I didn’t think I was going to make it here.” Federer said after lifting his 5th Australian Open title and a first since 2010
US Open 2017, opening round against Frances Tiafoe.
A man on a mission as if, the 19 year old American played his heart out only to succumb to the experienced, greatest of all times Roger Federer in 5 sets. It gave Federer a 79th career victory at the US Open, equaling Andre Agassi for second-most. Only Jimmy Connors has more, with 98. Federer had to conquer the slow start to ensure a 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, 1-6, 6-4 in a compelling first-round contest under the Arthur Ashe Stadium roof. It was his first 5 setter match in the opening round since 2000.
“I was quite up and down,” Federer said, agreeing that he was misjudging the distance and the balls. In these best-of-five-set matches,” Federer said, “you have a lot of lives sometimes.” All during the match, it felt that Federer still was battling with the back injury he caught in Montreal. The reason He chose to sit out of Cincinnati the following week.
Tiafoe, who now is based in Florida, is ranked 70th and has never been past the second round at a major tournament. This loss against Federer would be a lesson for him is what he said after the match.
US Open second round against Mikhail Youzhny
Federer was caught dodging the same violent waves from the earlier match, this time against Mikhail Youzhny in a five set encounter again. Federer still made it to the third round at the Flushing meadows with a 6-1 6-7(3) 4-6 6-4 6-2 win. Riding his first round woes against Tiafoe, Federer’s famous backhand was letting him down in this match. Five winners were outnumbered by 26 unforced errors on the backhand in the opener and at one point against Youzhny he had four backhand winners to go with 21 unforced errors. “Looked liked Mikhail was cramping at the end and that was hard to watch. We played in the doubles here back when we were juniors and have met loads of times. This was probably the best match we have played against each other.” The Russian who took a medical time out eventually succumbed in 5 sets to Federer.
These five set battles are actually a lot of fun. I feel quite warmed up by now,” Federer said in his on-court interview after the match in which he fired 62 winners and 68 unforced errors.
The 36-year-old, who now has 80 match wins at the US Open, will face 35-year-old Feliciano Lopez of Spain for a place in the last 16. His record against Lopez is just as solid – 12-0..
All we hope is that Federer gets the next easy so he can amass a little more time to infuse energy into the drained nerves.
Author: Anjali Banerjee