Djokovic Cramps, Roddick To Face Federer
January 27, 2009 -- Skeptics take a seat. The Roger Federer of 2006 and 2007 is back. The Swiss #2 seed left fans shaking their heads in awe as he systematically dismantled Juan Martin Del Potro 63 60 60 in one hour and twenty minutes this evening on Rod Laver Arena.
"I thought I might be in for a long night," Roger told Darren Cahill immediately following the victory. "I'm very happy. I don't have any muscle pain from my last match, and I'm delighted with my performance."
And what a performance it was. Federer had 9 unforced errors to 38 winners. His winning percentage on first serves was 86%; and, he won 75% of his second service points. Commentators and coaches have urged Roger over his career to attack the net more, which is difficult considering the excellent return games players possess. However, today, Roger approached the net 25 times and won 21 of those points.
The first set was competitive, until the fourth game when Federer broke the Argentine. As the match progressed and Del Potro's heavy ground game was thwarted his head hung lower and lower as he strolled from the ad side to the deuce side of the court. He didn't have one break chance the entire match; and, his serve was mediocre. He had no answers.
Roger took risks today. He mixed up his shots, intuitively knowing when to go for slice, topspin, a drop shot, or volley. His feet danced around the court as well as Rudolph Nureyev danced a grand ballet -- with grace and agility.
Here was a typical point: shoelace volley winner; ace down the "T"; shanked volley (oops); a cross-court inside-out forehand winner; ace. And that's the way the match went.
In 1998 at the women's singles final of The French Open Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario and Monica Seles battled for the title. Seles had a winning record against the "Barcelona Bumble Bee," as Bud Collins called her. Arantxa won the first set in a tiebreak, lost the second at love, and won the third set -- plus the title. Asked after the match what happened in the second set Arantxa said, "Oh, you can't do anything when Monica's playing like that. You just have to hope it doesn't last."
Federer's onslaught lasted. He started strong and stepped on the gas. He never let up. His groundstrokes penetrated the court. He took balls early, grabbing precious time from Del Potro's game plan. His down-the-line backhand was sublime. It hasn't looked this strong since Wimbledon in 2006.
Roger Federer will meet Andy Roddick in the semifinal. It will be Federer's 19th straight major semifinal appearance, a record he started in since 2004. It may never be broken. Roddick has played in four other semifinal matches here.
Federer's record against the American is 15-2. Each time Roddick has reached a semifinal or final of a major, since winning the U. S. Open in 2003, Roger Federer has spoiled his party. However, Roddick signed a three-year contract with Larry Stefanki late last year. The results of their relationship are evident. Roddick is fitter and faster than he has been in years.
In his press conference today, reporters learned about the benefits of his improved fitness and 15-pound weight loss. "'Yeah, I noticed it a lot on the first ball. When they hit a return, I'm able to stabilize on that one, or at least get there a second quicker and at least neutralize that one. I'm not getting hurt on that ball as much, which helps. When I get going, I'm able to kind of move a little bit, and that's nice also.
Andy defeated Novak Djokovic to earn his berth in the semifinals. The defending champion "'was forced to retire in the fourth set,'" as reported in today's online Tennis World, Australian Open Daily Edition. They had split the first two sets and then Roddick won the third. Three games into the fourth, on serve, Novak retired with heat cramps.
Dan Silkstone, writing for "theage.com," Melbourne's online daily, wrote that the match had effectively ended in the third set when Djokovic could no longer run. Silkstone went on to write that Novak couldn't do "'much of anything other than sit forlornly and trudge around the court.'"
Although the Serbian professes to be a tennis professional, his tendency to quit because he doesn't think he can win a match wears on fans and players. In a brief interview with Darren Cahill after his win over Del Potro, Roger Federer said, "It's a bit of a surprise to see Novak out. You wonder about him giving up. It's not like he hasn't done it before. Andy completely deserved the match."
Heat exhaustion is a dangerous condition that can be deadly. It's nothing to fool around with. Federer, though, has been in Roddick's situation. In last year's semifinal match at the Monte Carlo Masters Series, Djokovic retired at the beginning of the second because of a soar throat.
Novak expressed dismay when confronted with skeptical opinions about his will to fight through in a match. He thought players should confront the tournament management and put a stop to playing in extreme conditions. He didn't want fans to see players retire.
Simply put, Novak should have stayed on court and let Andy Roddick savor victory. He could have muddled through a couple more games. That would have been the professional choice. As much as he says he doesn't want to disappoint fans... he disappoints fans; and, he acts oblivious to his behavior and the consequences it causes.
Tournament Sweetheart Ends Run
Jelena Dokic lost in the quarterfinals to Dinara Safina after another three-set match today. The comeback kid will not be forgotten. She entered as a wildcard from her adopted country, ranked 187 in the world. She will move into the top one hundred when rankings are released on Monday. She showed courage, versatility, determination, and mental toughness this fortnight. At a time when the women's game is in flux due to the unexpected retirement of Justine Henin, Jelena Dokic's is a welcome breath of fresh air. Tennis needs her. The WTA needs her.