Australian Open fans, contrary to the expectations of some tennis analysts, witnessed Roger Federer convincingly beat a top player (in this case Murray) late in a Major, and look to be on the comeback road in his 6-3, 6-4, 6-7, 6-3 victory. The Swiss maestro has for nearly a year looked to be low on confidence, and increasingly uncomfortable on big points and key moments. During his quarterfinal match against Andy Murray however, Federer produced his first really convincing victory against one of the top men possibly since his 2012 Australian Open victory against Murray in the Finals.
Federer has looked strong throughout this years Australian Open, and his victory against Murray serves to reinforce the notion that his recently found form is for real. Over the last year, it became a near expectation from onlookers that when the Swiss strolled into the “ring” against one of the other top players (Djokovic, Nadal, Murray), that he would show flashes of greatness but likely relinquish the match. The victory against Murray showed that this year brings a much more competitive Federer into the mix. One that the top players will approach with caution as in the days of old.
Australian Open faithfuls, looking on as Roger Federer continued to produce winners on his way to beating Murray, may have been convinced that the maestro is on “comeback road.” During the four set battle, there were multiple extended baseline rallies where each players movement was heavily tested. Federer’s movement was impressive and although he did struggle to convert his numerous breakpoint opportunities, his movement appeared impeccable throughout the engagement.
From the outset of the match, Federer appeared to be a bit on edge, possibly not totally convinced that he could find and sustain his top form against one of the top players. During the coin-toss, the maestro looked a bit anxious and on edge. As the first set unfolded, the Swiss found a quick break and consolidated it to move ahead. Even with the one break lead however, the feeling existed that at any moment the little momentum could go right back the way of Murray. Federer himself did not appear totally convinced that he would ride his one break to winning the first set of his Australian Open quarterfinal. When the first set quickly concluded however, the scoreline read a one set lead for the Swiss and seeds of belief appeared to be taking root in his mind.
The second set saw more of the same impeccable movement from Federer, along with multiple break point chances. The numerous break opportunities went begging for Federer early in the second set and for a moment it appeared that a window of opportunity existed for Murray to claim momentum. Murray’s Australian Open hopes however took a turn for the worse as Federer took a two sets to none lead and looked as confident as he’s been for at least a full year.
Due to Federer’s recent unpredictable play against the top few players ahead of him, even with a two sets to none lead, tennis fans were not as convinced as in years past that victory was certain. As the third set wore on however, one thing was apparent, and that was that Federer’s rich form was anything but streaky. The Swiss continued to show outstanding movement, incredible defense along with devastating forehands. The third set eventually headed into a tie breaker and Federer appeared to have a chokehold on the match. Murray however, battling to stay alive, raised his play just enough and manage to slip out from sure defeat and steal the third set.
The recent success and steady play however seemed to have surprised even Federer. One sign that the Swiss may not be totally confident in his ability to perform in clutch moments was how he treated the very attackable second serve of Murray. As Murray continued to roll the second serve into play, the maestro seemed to prefer to simply chip and push the return into play instead of taking a confident swing at the relatively slow serves. Even when leading by sometimes two breakpoints, the Swiss appeared to shy away from a real attack of the Murray second serve. In addition, during the second and third sets, there were periods of time where the Federer groundstrokes looked to lose some sting and purpose, allowing Murray to control and dictate play. These signs may have signaled that even Roger has yet to totally be convinced that his new found game is here to stay and can be counted on in the big moments.
The manner in which the former Australian Open champion played during the final set however must surely have put some of his doubts, if indeed he had any, to rest. Murray, bolstered on by escaping sure defeat in the third set, pushed and tested Federer in the fourth set. The maestro managed to get a break however and the only question which remained was whether he could ride the break to the finish line and close out his first truly convincing win against a top player in at least a year.
Relieved and encouraged by his victory, Federer will regroup and prepare for what many expect to be an even tougher test, a semifinal match against Rafael Nadal.
Editorial by Daniel Worku