Sunday, January 20, 2019

Roger Federer announces he will play on the clay after 4th round Aussie Open loss

“I have massive regrets tonight,” Roger Federer admitted as his bid for a record seventh Australian Open title came to an end in the fourth round at the hands of 20-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion, who arrived at Melbourne Park chasing a third straight Australian Open crown, was beaten 6-7(11) 7-6(3) 7-5 7-6(5) in front of a rapturous crowd at Rod Laver Arena on Sunday night.

Federer paid tribute to Tsitsipas, the No.14 seed advancing to his first Grand Slam quarterfinal to face Roberto Bautista Agut, but was left to rue the 12 break points that came and went through the first three sets of the match – eight in the second set, four of which were set points.

“I felt like I have to win the second set,” said Federer, who had beaten Tsitsipas in two tiebreak sets at the Hopman Cup earlier this month. “I don't care how I do it, but I have to do it. Cost me the game tonight.

“There are always multiple factors that play into a match like this. But it definitely didn't go the way I was hoping on the break points. I also didn't break him at the Hopman Cup, so clearly something is wrong how I return him, what I'm trying to do. He's doing a good job to defend them.”

Tsitsipas had paid tribute to Federer’s influence on his own playing style, the Greek attributing his attacking, volley-centric brand of tennis to analysing the 20-time Grand Slam champion’s game since the age of six.

“He has a one-handed backhand, and I used to have long hair, too,” Federer joked when the comparison was put to him. “Maybe a little bit, sure.

“I think he's definitely done a really nice job now, the last year and a half. Before that, too, obviously. But beating Novak [Djokovic] in Toronto, the likes of [Kevin] Anderson and [Alexander] Zverev, now me here. That's what you need to do to get to the next level. He's doing that. It's really nice for him. I see him definitely being high up in the game for a long time.”

Asked if this result represented a changing of the guard, as announced by John McEnroe in the aftermath on court, he replied: “I've heard that story the last 10 years.”

Speaking to the French press corps, Federer revealed his intention to play during the clay court season in 2019 for the first time in three years, raising the prospect of a return to Roland-Garros, where he last competed in 2015.

"I’m at a point in my career where I want to have fun,” said Federer, who made his decision prior to the Australian Open.

“I’ll admit I missed it, though last year it was a good decision not to, and the year before that I was injured. I wanted to do it again, maybe not have another big break. I’ve had those, and I didn’t feel it was so necessary for my tennis. So it was sort of decided like that.”

As for the match, played in a febrile atmosphere both at Rod Laver Arena and within Melbourne Park at large, Federer conceded that Tsitsipas had earned the victory.

“It was okay,” he said of his own performance, having hit 61 winners to Tsitsipas’s 62, but producing 55 unforced errors, 33 from his misfiring forehand alone.

“I lost to a better player who was playing very well tonight – hung in there, gave himself chances at some point, stayed calm. It's not always easy, especially for younger guys. Credit to him for taking care of that.

“Conditions also changed throughout the match, like every year when you start at 7pm and go into the night. It gets harder to go through the opponent. I thought conditions were definitely a bit slower this year than last year – didn't allow for as much variation, to be quite honest.

“But he did a nice job of taking care of his half-volleys. That's maybe what won him the match tonight, I'm not sure.”

I kind of had a feeling this might happen remembering how well Tsitsipas played Roger at Hopman Cup in early January. 

I'm sad and disappointed, but not as upset, or shocked as I was about the U.S. Open last year. 

Early losses hurt a lot less than really close matches in a final. Like U.S. Open 2011 for example. 

Having said all that, Roger had his chances and he knows it, which is why he said he has massive regrets. I really wish the media would stop with the changing of the guard BS. 

It won't be the true changing of the guard until Roger retires, got it?. 

And that's not happening just yet. 

While we're at it let's quit it with the retire stuff on social media, the guy played a player 17 years his junior for 4 hours. That doesn't say hang up your raquet to me. 

Also please let's not have John McEnroe do the on court interviews anymore. Please. Jim Courier is doing a fine job let's just stick with him ok Aussie Open?.

I can honestly say, I'm really excited for the clay for the first time in years.  Bring it on. 

Friday, January 18, 2019

Roger Federer dismisses Fritz to set up blockbuster 4th round with Tsitsipas at Aussie Open

Nick Kyrgios called parts of it "scary good", "butter" and "so smooth". He could have also described Roger Federer's 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 dismissal of 21-year-old Taylor Fritz as "comprehensive".

Federer turned in his best performance of the Australian Open on Friday, eliminating Fritz in less than 90 minutes to skate into the fourth round.

The 37-year-old dropped only three first-serve points (93%, 40/43), won more than half of his break points (5/9) and never let Fritz into the match. The American saw zero break points.

“I think I wanted to get out of the blocks quickly because I knew of the threat of Taylor, his possibilities of the serve,” Federer said. “I think I had a really good feeling out here today against someone who can definitely be very dangerous in the future, and I wish him all the best in the future.”

The match was billed as an intergenerational showdown, with the 21-year-old Fritz one of 10 players aged 22 or under into the third round, against Federer, the 37-year-old all-time leader in Grand Slam titles. But the Swiss showed, as he's done countless times in the past, that few of any generation can touch him when he's on. Federer finished 34 winners, including 10 aces, to only 14 unforced errors.

The next wave of talent, however, will have another crack at the six-time Australian Open champion in the fourth round. Federer will face Greece's #NextGenATP star Stefanos Tsitsipas for a spot in the quarter-finals. It will be their first meeting.

The 20-year-old Athens native matched his best Grand Slam showing with a 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(7), 6-4 win against Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili, a two-time ATP Tour titlist.

“I'm happy for him,” Federer said. “He's playing so well, and I'm looking forward to the matchup with him. I think it's going to be a good one. I like how he mixes up his game and also comes to the net. So will I. I think we will see some athletic attacking tennis being played.”

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Roger Federer fights off a challenge to move into 3rd round at Aussie Open

Roger Federer might have preferred a quicker or a tidier second-round showing in Melbourne, but the two-time defending champion will take a ticket to the third round however it comes.

Federer fought off Brit Dan Evans, who was ready for the occasion, 7-6(5), 7-6(3), 6-3 to stay perfect in Australian Open second-rounders (20-0).

The 37-year-old did more than continue to ease his way into the season's first Grand Slam. Federer more than tripled his winner to unforced error tally (56 to 17) and took the match to Evans, winning 74 per cent of his net points (45/61).

"I think [Evans] is a good player," said Federer. "I've seen him play some really good matches over the years. I see why he can cause difficulties to players. He's got a nice slice [and he is] defending the court well. He has the variation, which is always a hard thing to play against. He was feeling it today... I liked the match. I thought he was playing well. It was enjoyable."

But credit Evans, who also played an attacking brand of tennis and had chances to put a real scare into the 20-time Grand Slam champion. The 28-year-old mixed in his honed backhand slice with his heavy forehand and had the first set on his racquet, serving at 5/4 in the tie-break.

But two errant forehand volleys, including one to an open court, gave Federer a set point on his racquet, an opportunity the third seed did not pass up.

The Swiss similarly pulled away in the second set, and a single break of serve pushed him ahead in the third.

Federer will next meet American Taylor Fritz for a place in the fourth round. Fritz, who works with Federer's former coach Paul Annacone, battled past Gael Monfils 6-3, 6-7(8), 7-6(6), 7-6(5). The 21-year-old saved 12 of 13 break points throughout the second-round clash to defeat the 30th seed in three hours and 24 minutes.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Roger Federer rolls into 2nd round at Aussie Open

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Defending champion Roger Federer started his bid for a record seventh Australian Open trophy — and the 100th title of his career — on Monday with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan.

Federer was solid on serve, winning 83 per cent of his first deliveries, and struck 52 winners, including 14 aces to complete victory in one hour and 57 minutes. The third seed broke serve once in each set — in the fourth game of the first set, the third game of the second set and the sixth game of the third set. He extends his perfect record to 7-0 against Istomin, who is on a five-match losing streak at the major championships.

"I think I was hitting the ball pretty well," said Federer. "I think I protected my serve well, didn't allow Denis really to get into my service games very often. I was always in the lead, as well. Obviously that helps [as] I can free swing maybe a little bit more. At the same time I think I have to do some defence, some offence. It was a bit of everything. But I'm very happy with my first round. It's been great. Felt the ball really good."

The Swiss superstar will now prepare to meet Briton Daniel Evans, who knocked out fellow qualifier Tatsuma Ito of Japan 7-5, 6-1, 7-6(8) in two hours and 35 minutes. “It’s a good opportunity,” said Evans. “I played him at Wimbledon before. It's not very often you get to play Roger on a pretty big court, I'm guessing. I look forward to it.”

Federer, who played Evans on Centre Court in 2016, said, "I remember playing well... He's got all the shots. Likes to take chances, takes the ball early. It's nice to see him back on the tour as well. I'm happy for him that he won his first round."

Federer is currently tied on six crowns for most titles at the Australian championships with World No. 1 Novak Djokovic and Roy Emerson. He is hoping to become the second man — after Jimmy Connors(106) — to win 109-plus tour-level singles titles in the Open Era (since April 1968).

"I think I can be happy how I got out of the blocks from the off-season," said Federer. "I think I started to feel that midway through the first set already that it was going to be difficult for Denis to get into my service games. That relaxes you from the baseline. Then good things really happen."

Did You Know?

Roger Federer has now advanced to at least the second round in all 20 of his appearances at the Australian Open. The 37-year-old's last loss in the opening round at a major championship came at Roland Garros in 2003. He has since played at 59 Grand Slams.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

No big surprise Roger Federer gets yet another tough draw at Australian Open

Roger Federer, the six-time Australian Open champion, has been drawn in the same half as 2009 titlist Rafael Nadal and Marin Cilic, who the Swiss superstar beat in the 2018 final. World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, also with six trophies at Melbourne Park, has Alexander Zverev in his half of the draw.

Having taken part in the Australian Open draw ceremony on Margaret Court Arena Friday night, Federer watched on as he realised he’d need to potentially beat a resurgent Cilic or Rolex Paris Masters winner Karen Khachanov, Kevin Anderson or John Isner, and Nadal if he is to add to his 20 major championship trophies, which would also represent his 100th career crown.

Federer’s first task will be to prepare to meet Uzbekistan’s Denis Istomin in the first round. The World No. 3 leads Istomin 6-0 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, with their last two meetings going to three sets. Five-time former finalist Andy Murray, who continues his comeback from a long-time hip injury and also features in the third quarter of the draw, starts against Qatar ExxonMobil Openchampion and No. 22 seed Roberto Bautista Agut.

Speaking during an on-court interview, Federer said, “The moment that you find out the draw before you play, you shift you’re focus to the first round - and not considering whether you can win a seventh title. You simplify your preparations. I can’t believe I won the past two titles, so in a way that has to be the goal, but I’m not putting too much pressure on myself."

When asked about the evolution of his game in recent years, the Swiss admitted, “Novak challenged me time and time again. I played him in his absolute prime, when he was virtually unbeatable. It was important not to get frustrated. We’re both naturally aggressive players. Novak, Rafa and others have made me rethink my game, change my game style. My racquet switch, enabling me to become more aggressive on my backhand, probably helped me win the title two years ago too.”

Nadal, as the second seed, opens his quest for an 18th Grand Slam championship against Australia’s James Duckworth. The Spanish superstar has a 55-12 record at the Melbourne major, including three runner-up finishes in 2012 (l. to Djokovic), 2014 (l. to Wawrinka) and 2017 (l. to Federer), and he will be contesting his first tournament since September 2018. Also in the bottom quarter, fifth seed Anderson will challenge Adrian Mannarino of France, with ninth seed John Isner and No. 20 seed Grigor Dimitrovin his section. Isner, 6’10”, takes on 6’11” fellow American Reilly Opelka in the first round.

Top seed Djokovic, with a 61-8 record at Melbourne Park, starts his campaign for a 15th major crown against a qualifier, but will be wary of the firepower of a resurgent Jo-Wilfried Tsonga – who starts against Martin Klizan – in the second round. Eighth seed Kei Nishikori, a three-time former quarter-finalist and recent Brisbane International winner, also faces a qualifier first up and may potentially be a last eight foe for Djokovic.

Zverev, the Nitto ATP Finals champion and fourth seed, who has reached the third round for the past two years, challenges Slovenia’s Aljaz Bedene in the first round with 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka, No. 16 seed Milos Raonic and Nick Kyrgios threats in the fourth round.

In must-see first-round ties, 2016 semi-finalist Raonic takes on Kyrgios (3-3 record) in the second quarter of the draw, which also features seventh seed Dominic Thiem, who opens against France’s Benoit Paire. Sixth seed Cilic challenges Bernard Tomic and last year’s semi-finalist Kyle Edmund, the No. 13 seed, plays Doha finalist Tomas Berdych, the 2014-15 semi-finalist.

It will be the first Australian Open to feature deciding set tie-breaks at 6-6, with the first player to scores 10 points – and leading by two points – winning the match. Also, the men's draw will feature a 10-minute break for the heat after the third set.

Main draw play will get underway on 14 January.

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Swiss Bliss: Roger Federer & Belinda Bencic defend their Hopman Cup title

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Roger Federer has won the Mastercard Hopman Cup for a record third time after Switzerland beat Germany in a winner-takes-all point on Saturday night.

Federer gave Switzerland a 1-0 lead in the tie with a 6-4 6-2 win over world No.4 Alexander Zverev on Saturday.

But Kerber levelled the tie with a 6-4 7-6 (6) win over Bencic in the women’s singles rubber.

Switzerland then came up trumps 4-0 1-4 4-3 (4) in the deciding mixed doubles that came down to the final point.

Under the short sets format, the match is decided by a winner-takes-all point if scores are locked at 4-4 in the third-set tiebreak.

Germany failed to convert a championship point before it reached that stage, and they again faltered when everything was on the line, with Zverev hitting the ball into the net to spark Switzerland’s celebrations.

Federer’s three Mastercard Hopman Cup titles is more than any other player.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion first won the Hopman Cup in 2001, when he teamed with Martina Hingis to beat the US.

The 37-year-old won his second crown alongside Bencic last year, beating Zverev and Kerber.

And it was the exact same script this year, with Federer winning his singles match in the final before helping clinch the deciding rubber in the mixed doubles.

“I’m very happy about these records, but I didn’t come here for that,” Federer said.

“What a thrill it was – not just the match point, but also the whole match and the whole week.

“It’s great fun. I’m happy, I’m proud to represent my country. It’s been a super pleasure teaming with Belinda.

Federer was simply unstoppable in his singles rubber, countering the power of Zverev with classy stroke play and unpredictable deftness.

Zverev unleashed a series of powerful serves, some of which exceeded 220 km/h.

But Federer snared the crucial break in the 10th game of the first set, before breaking the young German again early in the second set on the way to the 70-minute win.

Federer has beaten Frances Tiafoe, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Cameron Norrie, and Zverev in straight sets at the Hopman Cup, giving him an excellent preparation for his Australian Open title defence.

“I’m happy I’m feeling this good and playing as well as I am,” Federer said.

“It’s good to finish on a singles performance like this. I’m a bit surprised that the matches have gone as well as they have.”

The victory ensured Switzerland’s fourth Mastercard Hopman Cup title in total, the nation’s first trophy secured by Manuela Maleeva-Fragniere and Jakob Hlasek in 1992.

Federer and Bencic were the first pair in the event’s 31-year history to return to defend a title.

2019 is starting off just like 2018 for Roger :). 

I actually felt sorry for Sasha and Angie this time, they actually had championship point and yet somehow Roger and Belinda managed to get out of it and play that one last amazing point to win it. 

I really hope they keep this event. Where else will you see Federer play mixed doubles like this. So special. 

Friday, January 04, 2019

Roger Federer eyes more Hopman Cup history

Asked often about his enduring relationship with the Mastercard Hopman Cup, Roger Federer is quick to point out that it’s even longer than many people think.

“I was even a hitting partner, too, way back when before I (officially) played,” says Federer, a winner for Switzerland alongside Martina Hingis on his debut in 2001, and with Belinda Bencic 17 years later.

“I’ve come here actually six times and always had great partners … I’ve just really enjoyed myself here.”

It’s a response that says many things about the much-loved champion, who teams with Bencic when Switzerland faces Germany in the final today.

Firstly, there’s the attention to detail that’s also translated into one of the greatest-ever tennis careers, Federer the winner of an unparalleled 20 Grand Slams among 99 titles overall.

Secondly, there’s his natural instinct to honour history. “I love when they honour great people like Harry Hopman,” says Federer. “And Lucy Hopman did such a wonderful job for so many years (as) the patron of the tournament.”

But arguably most pertinent is that, like his millions of fans globally, Federer is astonished that he remains such a force after more than two decades on tour.

“I’m happy I’m still on tour and feeling as good as I feel right now,” says Federer, now 37, relating that a positive off-season was helped by how happily he anticipates his annual visit to Australia.

“It’s a place that’s given me some good feelings for the rest of the season and I love playing in Australia,” he stresses.

“People know that here. I’ve good friends here in this country.”

And that happy relationship translates superbly to his already-sublime tennis.

The winner of his 18th Grand Slam title at Australian Open 2017 after earlier making his highly anticipated return from injury at Mastercard Hopman Cup, Federer has only added to those milestones in recent years.

Taking in two consecutive Australian Open triumphs, a perfect singles run at Mastercard Hopman Cup 2018 and again so far this year, Federer has won 21 straight matches on Australian soil.

It’s won’t escape Federer’s careful notice that the last time he lost a singles match in Australia was to Zverev, as their 2017 round robin encounter was determined in three tiebreak sets.

It adds an intriguing element to today’s final – as does the loss Federer experienced to the German in the semifinals of the elite ATP Finals.

It was Zverev’s third win in six tour matches against the Swiss star, who notes that the 21-year-old is showing further improvements in Perth.

“I think Zverev’s coming in better prepared this year than last year,” he admits.

“Last year he did a ton of fitness coming into the Hopman Cup, so maybe his game was still lacking a little bit.

“I think that’s not the case this time around and he’s a different player.”

But Federer, too, will take confidence from the momentum he’s already established in the new year.

Claiming every set contested against Cameron Norrie, Frances Tiafoe and Stefanos Tsitsipas, the focus now is to keep producing that same form.

“For me it’s about maintaining a good level of play,” he says.

“I’m happy with we’re my game’s at.”

For world No.54 Bencic, the challenge is perhaps more complicated when she faces world no.2 Kerber.

But while the 21-year-old has suffered singles losses this week to Serena Williams and Maria Sakkari, there’s a confidence boost in leading the head-to-head record 3-1 against Kerber.

The German’s lone win was in their last encounter at 2018 Wimbledon, which Kerber notably went on to win.

A powerful motivator for the Swiss is the significance of a fourth Mastercard Hopman Cup title for their nation. Doing so would make Federer the first player in history to feature in three winning Hopman Cup teams.

“It would be great, you know,”he said of defending Switzerland’s 2018 title. “I think you could see on both our faces what (winning last year) meant to us. It definitely kick-started the season.”

Such milestones only add to the motivation that’s critical after so many years on tour.

For all the memories that Federer has built in his long Hopman Cup history, there’s more to be created yet.

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Roger Federer's win over Tsitsipas guides Switzerland into Hopman Cup Final

Roger Federer has guided defending champions Switzerland to the Hopman Cup final after beating Greek world No.15 Stefanos Tsitsipas at RAC Arena tonight.

World No.3 Federer edged past Tsitsipas 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (7-4) to advance his country into a second consecutive tournament decider at Perth’s unique ITF mixed teams event.

Greece needed to win tonight’s tie 3-0 to be any chance of qualifying for the final from Group B, Federer’s victory enough to snuff out their challenge.

Federer and partner Belinda Bencic will square off in the final on Saturday against the winner of tomorrow night’s clash between Germany and Australia.

The 37-year-old had his toughest test yet at Hopman Cup 31, digging deep to find a way past Tsitsipas in front of another near sell-out crowd.

Just seven points went against the server in the first 12 games, the scores locked at 6-6 after 35 minutes to take the first set into a tiebreaker.

Tsitsipas didn’t take a backward step, hitting freely to race to a 4-1 lead.

It was the signal for Federer to strike back, winning four consecutive points against the emerging Greek star.

Tsitsipas held his next service point for 5-5 but a double fault and Federer ace helped the Swiss maestro claim the first set.

Both players continued to hold serve easily in the second set, consecutive aces in the middle of the seventh game helping Tsitsipas to a 4-3 lead.

Stepping up his game when it counted, Federer produced a remarkable drop on the ninth point of the second set tiebreak to set up victory.

Federer said he was pleased to have a chance to claim a third Hopman Cup title.

“That was always the goal, to get to the final,” Federer said.

“On top of it I’m playing well.”

World No.41 Maria Sakkari took the tie to a deciding FAST4 mixed doubles match, levelling with an upset 6-3 6-4 win against Bencic.

Realising Switzerland had already won through to the final before her match, Sakkari said she still wanted to play well against Bencic.

“It was a great match for both of us,” Sakkari said.

“It doesn’t really count but I wanted to go out there and give everything, especially for my team, for Stefanos and the rest of the Greeks here.

“I think I played well.”

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Tennis legends sharing a love-fest on court at Hopman Cup

This is too good not to share. 

Not often you get to hear Serena and Roger compliment each other on the same court. 

Such a love-fest. 

Granted I've made my opinions on Serena pretty clear over the years, but I have also given her credit for all she has accomplished.  

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Roger Federer & Serena Williams met on court for the first time at Hopman Cup in Perth

Roger Federer's Switzerland beat Serena Williams' USA as the two tennis greats met on court for the first time at the Hopman Cup in Perth, Australia.

Federer and Belinda Bencic beat Williams and Frances Tiafoe 4-2 4-3 (5-3) in a mixed-doubles contest to secure a 2-1 win in the round-robin tie.

Federer and Williams, both 37, earlier won their respective singles matches.

"It was great fun. I really enjoyed playing against Serena. What an honour," said Federer.

"I was nervous returning because people talk about her serve so much. I know why they say it now, she has a wonderful serve.

"She's a great champion, you see how focused she is and I love that about her."

Federer and Williams have won a combined 43 Grand Slam singles titles, and have spent a combined 621 weeks at world number one.

The match had been described as the most anticipated contest involving a male and female player since the 'Battle of the Sexes' in 1973, when 39-time Grand Slam champion Billie Jean King beat former men's world number one Bobby Riggs in straight sets.

"It was a great experience. I'm sad it's over, I was just warming up," said Williams.

"It was so fun to do this at the pinnacle of our careers.

"The guy is great. He's the greatest of all time. There's a reason why he is so great. He has a killer serve. I've watched him all the time but I never realised how good it was. Maybe I could get some tips from him later on."

Before the mixed-doubles contest, Federer beat Tiafoe 6-4 6-1 before Williams levelled the tie with a 4-6 6-4 6-3 victory over Bencic.

The Hopman Cup comprises two singles and a mixed doubles match between nations in a round-robin format with two groups of four. The winners of each group will contest Saturday's final.

Defending champions Switzerland play Greece in their final round-robin match on Thursday while the USA face Great Britain's Cameron Norrie and Katie Boulter.

What a way to start 2019.  Two legends of the sport sharing the same court.

Happy New Year indeed. 

This was fun.  

We'll probably never see it again, which makes it that much more special.