Welcome to the first LiveAnalysis post! Today’s match-up: 17-time Grand Slam Champion Roger Federer faces off against up and coming Bernard Tomic, or as we know him around these parts, #BernieGOAT.
Before you ask, yes, this is still a Liveblog: I will continue to provide game by game commentary of a match. However, I will try to focus more on identifying trends rather than just tell you what is happening in a point. Of course, specific points will be highlighted, but the emphasis here will be on trying to figure out why the match is developing in a certain way. More analysis, less play-by-play narration.
Fortunately, today’s match lends itself to a lot of tactical subplots, which is kind of inevitable when both gentlemen step on a tennis court. Federer and Tomic have already played 3 times, and not surprisingly, the Swiss has won all three, losing only one set in the process. Federer has waltzed through the first two rounds almost completely unscathed, while Tomic did well to avoid a fifth set during his battle with Daniel Brands.
What to Watch For:
– Can the #BernieGOAT put any pressure on Federer’s service games? This to me, is the biggest question for today’s match. Tomic was atrocious when returning Daniel Brands’ very good serve the other day (winning only 28% of total return points). In the third set, Tomic failed to win a single return point until the tiebreaker. Watching that match, I saw way too many short returns up the middle by Tomic, which Brands put away more often than not. Federer feasts on that kind of gift, so it will be imperative for the Aussie to get more depth on all of his returns, particularly his second serve returns.
– How well can Tomic defend on his deuce court? Tomic’s uses a very flat FH, and he finds it difficult to generate much depth when an opponent attacks that side of the court. As we know, Federer LOVES to attack CC with his own FH – that’s something that Djokovic struggled with for most of his early duels with the Moët ambassador.
– Can Tomic engage (and dominate) enough backhand-to-backhand exchanges? And I mean DRIVE backhand-to-backhand exchanges? This is the one area of the court where the young Australian has an edge, but he tends to overuse his slice backhand, which could be very problematic for him, since Federer has a great BH slice, and loves to tee off either CC or DTL with his drive backhand when his opponent sends a weak slice to that wing.
– Can the Rod Laver Arena crowd give Bernie an extra boost? They just introduced the players, and they roared for Federer. So…maybe not.
The players are on the court, so we’re about to start. Remember to refresh this page often, as I will be providing game-by-game updates throughout the match!
And off we go!
First Set – Bernard Tomic will serve first.
0-0: #BernieGOAT is very willing to have FH to FH exchanges with Federer. Interesting…and potentially dangerous. Federer finds the first BP of the match after Bernie slices tamely up the middle, and Federer runs around his BH, approaches with his FH, and puts away an easy volley after a mediocre Tomic pass. The Swiss breaks after a Tomic UFE.
Tomic found Federer’s drive BH all of once in that entire game. And in the shot that followed, he hit a bad slice up the middle that got him in trouble.
1-0, Federer: Federer was cruising, until Tomic unleashed an incredible FH CC return that tipped the balance of the point in his favor. However, Federer holds after sending an ace out wide at 40-30.
Federer went to that wide serve from the AD court twice in that game, with great success.
2-0, Federer: We see Federer chip and charge on Tomic’s 2nd serve at 30-0. It worked: Tomic did not see it coming. Tomic holds after putting Federer’s BH under pressure with his super flat FH – he got great depth, and forced the error.
That was an interesting development: Tomic stood smack in the middle of the court, and got great penetration with his FH into Federer’s BH corner. Seemed repeatable.
Alright stop, collaborate, and listen. Did Tomic get that nonsense shaved into the side of his head just for this match? #ausopen
— Beyond The Baseline (@SI_BTBaseline) January 19, 2013
2-1, Federer: Four first serves, and it’s a love hold for Federer. Not much more to say about that.
3-1, Federer: Tomic holds after some nice DTL shots off his BH and his FH. The #BernieGOAT has a great BH, and he needs to use the DTL version often in this match. However, the teenager did seem very confused by Federer’s FH DTL reply on a previous BH DTL. No matter: that was a good hold for Tomic.
It occurs to me that for all the craft in Tomic’s game, he still struggles to read points. He needs to develop those instincts, because he doesn’t have the natural athleticism to make up for that lack of anticipation.
3-2, Federer: Tomic is standing way too far back for his serve returns. Yet somehow, he’s managed to find himself at 30-all. On the deuce court, Federer is going out wide, since Bernie has to cover a great deal of court to have a chance at a return. Federer literally has gone out wide on every serve from that side of the court. I’d do the same against somebody who is standing so far back. Before Federer holds with another service winner, Tomic did fire a great FH DTL.
I’m continously amazed and marvelled by Tomic’s FH. It’s so…strange.
4-2, Federer: Bernie just had a love hold. That was impressive serving. Kind of like his FH, it’s kind of incredible to see what Tomic can get out of that serve of his. Had an emphatic ace out wide to seal said love hold.
You know…this is much closer than most people thought it would be. There’s not an obvious disparity from the back of the court. The only mismatch continues to be Federer’s serve against Tomic’s return.
4-3, Federer: Tomic made a mess out of a simple CC BH pass in the first point of the game, and just when it seemed like another routine hold for Federer, he double-faults at 40-15. Tomic gets a really good FH pass in the next point and we’re at deuce. However, two very short returns by Tomic are mauled by Federer and the Swiss holds.
5-3, Federer: Tomic’s BH suddendly goes into a funk, and two errors off that wing give Federer a SP. At deuce, Tomic again is befuddled by Federer’s FH DTL. A troubling development for him. But the teen saves another SP with a very, very lucky volley that clipped the net. Later, another BH UFE by Tomic gives Federer a third SP. Federer strangely nets a regulation BH slice. But Tomic comes up with some very good serves, and will force Federer to serve out the set.
It was interesting to see Tomic survive an unexpected rash of BH UFEs in that game. Some good serving helped. However, he’s made no inroads in Federer’s service games, so this set seems to be drawing to an inevitable conclusion.
Hey, that strange person is back!
5-4, Federer: Tomic is now standing much closer to the baseline for his returns. A good adjustment. Federer strangely DFs at 15-all, but takes advantage of a floater return and makes it 30-all. Tomic then does a very unsound and unwise thing: he stands closer to the baseline for the return, but as Federer’s toss goes up, Tomic starts backpedalling. That’s bad fundamentals: you always want to be moving forward for returns. In case you were wondering, Tomic netted that return. Then Federer went to his happy place from the AD court: out wide for an ace, since Bernie had again retreated to Tasmania.
First set to Federer, 6-4. Here are the stats:
Second Set – Bernard Tomic will serve first.
0-0: Tomic makes a bad FH UFE to give Federer an early break chance. Not the best start to a set…again. But #BernieGOAT saves it with a very good inside-out FH. Promising. A very nice BH DTL forces Federer’s error, and Bernie has a chance to hold, which he does after a service winner.
It’s interesting to note that while this is an awkward match-up for Tomic – since he can’t drop back behind the baseline and junkball away – the young man doesn’t seem uncomfortable at all playing closer to the baseline and being aggressive. I actually like his gameplan from the back of the court: very little slice, lots of aggression.
1-0, Tomic: Tomic has lost 2 of his challenges by 40-15 in this game. Federer holds after a service winner.
1-1: Tomic keeps attacking Federer’s FH corner, with really good results. Smart, smart play, and but more importantly, well executed. That same tactical thought can turn into a disaster if not executed correctly. At 30-all, Tomic comes up with a very good 2nd serve…and Federer sends a FH DTL return winner past him. Impressive. On BP, Federer has a look at a short FH, but rushes into it and sends it wide. Bad, and potentially costly error – a break there surely would’ve deflated the teen. Tomic sends an ace and a beautiful FH dropper to hold.
That was huge. What a miss by Federer – and on BP, to boot.
2-1, Tomic: Tomic is now back to standing way back behind the baseline on his returns. This makes life for Federer so easy: for someone who is one of history’s best at picking his spots with his serve, having that much real estate to work with is just easy pickings. Federer holds to love, to the surprise of no one.
2-2: Good serves, good forehands: a love game for Tomic punctuated by an ace.
The service games aren’t the problem – it’s his return games that will determine whether #BernieGOAT has a chance to take a set, let alone win today.
3-2, Tomic: Federer comes up with an insane BH flick at 15-0, and a ridiculous angled BH at 30-0. He holds to 15 moments later. The only thing out of the ordinary in that game was a deep 2nd serve return by Tomic. A rarity.
3-3: Tomic not only goes down 0-30 on an errant slice pass attempt, but loses his last challenge. Could prove to be problematic. Tomic digs himself out of the hole with some great serving and a lucky BH pass at 0-30. Impressively, the young Aussie holds after an errant FH by Federer.
How big was that lucky BH pass by Tomic at 0-30? It clipped the net, and that’s the only reason Federer missed the volley, as he was in great position to put it away. A few millimeters in Federer’s favor, and it would’ve been 0-40. Huge break for the #BernieGOAT, who was impressive after that.
4-3: Until 30-0, Federer has dropped all of 2 points on his serve in this entire set. That’s pretty embarrassing for the #BernieGOAT. A simple hold gets slightly complicated after Bernie wins another FH exchange (!!!). However, that wing lets Tomic down in the next point. A regulation FH finds the net, and Federer holds.
4-4: I was about to rave about how well Bernie’s FH has performed today, but 3 UFEs flow from this wing and set up a 15-40 edge for Federer. Talk about a shot breaking down at the worst possible time. However, the FH does save the first BP, and a beauty of a BH DTL saves the other. The next point is impressive: it was all about the FHs, and Tomic’s flat FH came up with the goods. AD-Tomic, but it disappears after a terrible slice approach that tamely caught the net. Another great FH by Tomic: wrongfoots Federer completely, and gets him another chance to hold. But a terrible, terrible BH slice UFE brings us back to deuce. This has become a HUGE game. Tomic lines up a BH DTL, goes for it, misses by a sizable margin. Oy, Bernie. BP again for Federer, but it’s saved by a service winner. Simply amazing point, as Tomic gets yet another good pass, Federer can barely get it back, and Tomic fires a FH winner. Moments later, Tomic holds, and this is a HUGE boost of confidence.
When Tomic badly misfired a FH to go down 15-40, Federer roared: “C’mon!”. He was sending a message to the young guy, in classic Lleyton Hewitt mode. But Tomic wasn’t rattled, and his FH stopped the bleeding, coming up with the goods time and time again. Man, that was impressive to see.
5-4, Tomic: Federer holds to love in about 2 seconds. Again, Tomic is not getting in any of these Federer service games. A tiebreaker might be the only way for him to win any sets today. And that’s a tall order against someone who is historically very good at breakers.
5-5: More great FHs dig Tomic out of a 0-30 hold. Fred Stolle says “Boy, is this good stuff”. I agree. But Federer comes up with some incredible gets, and gets a CC BH past Tomic for another BP. Many forget how great Federer’s defense still is. Federer gets a look at a 2nd serve, but sends one of his trademark mediocre slice BH returns, and Tomic’s FH collects the cash. Strange that Federer didn’t look to hit a drive return there: it’s not like he’s winning points from the baseline all that easily.
Paul Annacone will not be pleased with that BH slice return on BP. Not pleased at all. It was a simple, predictable serve, and Federer gave Tomic a chance to shine. Which he did. By the way, Tomic’s FH is already the winner of the night.
Amazing to think that this match is not being played on the AD court at all – it’s all about those FHs.
6-5, Tomic: Federer puts away a nice volley for 40-15. And then he gets another pretty drop volley in for the hold. BREAKER!
TIEBREAKER – Tomic will serve first
0-0: Apparently Tomic has a higher winning percentage in TBs than Federer. Hmm. He puts away a FH to go up.
1-0, Tomic: Incredible running FH by Bernie! Miniebreak!
2-0, Tomic: Bad luck on a Bernie FH – clips the net, lands wide.
2-1, Tomic: Service winner for Bernie
3-1, Tomic: Another FH putaway by Bernie. So confident.
4-1, Tomic: Tomic loses his last challenge, Federer puts away a simple volley. It was an atrocious challenge.
4-2, Tomic: Short return, simple FH for Federer
4-3, Tomic: Service winner out wide. Timely.
5-3, Tomic: They play a great point, 28 shots, Tomic goes for a FH DTL, and misses. Minibreak for Federer.
5-4, Tomic: Federer puts away a great FH off a Bernie slice. Great shot.
5-5: Tomic with the FH UFE. Just long. SP for Federer.
6-5, Federer: Federer survives an early onslaught, and then gets a look at an inside-out FH. He doesn’t miss, and forces the error.
That set will hurt for Tomic – he was right there in the tiebreaker, had a lead for most of it, even. And then Federer’s scrambling in the 28-stroke rally was the difference: there was some hard sliding involved. Still, Tomic went for the right shot – but missed.
Second set to Federer, 7-6 (5). Here are the stats:
Third Set – Federer will serve first
0-0: Federer serves a DF at 40-30, then an ace. Then another DF. 2 in one game. What’s up, Roger? But then the wide serve on the deuce court works for the 1380420429th time, but Federer can’t hold, since Tomic puts away a FH. Bernie then creates his 1st BP of the match, on a return winner. Then erases the good work with a very stupid attempt at a body serve return. Didn’t move his feet at all, as Stolle notes. Federer then yanks Tomic out wide with his inside-out FH, and then Tomic nets a FH of his own for the hold.
The good news for Tomic? He had a BP on Federer’s serve, finally. The bad news? Federer double-faulted twice in that game. I’m pretty sure that won’t be happening very frequently, Bernie. However, Bernie is standing closer to the baseline on returns, but can’t find a way to consistently return Federer’s wide serve from the deuce court. And that’s a very, very big problem for Tomic.
1-0, Federer: Federer had an absolutely amateurish BH drive return attempt at BP. That was straight out of your public park. However, Bernie misfires on a 2nd ball FH, and it’s BP again. Which is saved by a fearless FH dropper. No fear from the #BernieGOAT. Bernie goes to the Dropper Fountain again, tries to lob after Federer’s reply, and we’re back to deuce. Then Federer gets a look at an inside-out FH, and it’s BP #13 for the match. Which is saved by some incredible FHs from Bernie. Another incredible thing? Federer’s CC return winner at deuce. Tomic looks in control of the point…but Federer comes up with an incredible BH pass that Bernie can barely get back in play. Federer sprints, chips a reply into the deuce corner, and he breaks.
That had “Match Over” written all over it, particularly after Tomic’s horrible returning throughout the match. But…you never know how these things will work out.
2-0, Federer: Federer plays a rather sloppy service game, but he holds to 30 anyway, given that Tomic has no idea how to return any of his wide serves.
3-0, Federer: Bernie serves and volleys at 15-all, for the first time in the match. It didn’t end well. Still he holds to 30 after a bit.
3-1, Federer: Federer held easily again. For the 949975975th time.
The only somewhat strange development? Federer put on an undershirt after the 2nd set:
4-1, Federer: Bernie botches a simple volley and goes down a BP. He saves it, but Federer breaks moments later after some lackluster play from Tomic, who, like all of us, realized this match ended when he got broken at the start of the set.
5-1, Federer: Federer seals the win with a love hold, which is quite fitting, really. The Swiss was almost completely untroubled during his serve, and he rarely loses a match when those conditions take place.
Fred Stolle was asked if Djokovic and Murray should be concerned about what Federer did today. Fred said they should. I think both Djokovic and Murray shared a grin if they heard that: unlike Tomic, they have a track record of actually being able to return Federer’s serve. And both men are likely to have noticed Federer’s strange undershirt, which triggered this response from a Federer fan:
Oh no he does that when his back is bothering him RT @juanjo_sportsI don’t know what’s weirder, the Federer DFs,or the Federer undershirt.
— Catlyne (@catlyne_t) January 19, 2013
Game, set and match to Federer, 6-4, 7-6(5), 6-1. Here are your third set stats:
When the only break point you face in an entire best-of-five match comes in a game where you double-fault twice, you know you’ve had a good and easy day in the (serving) office. Roger Federer was completely untroubled on serve throughout today’s match, and that ended up being the difference in an otherwise tight contest.
Federer also didn’t have to worry about protecting his BH all that much: Tomic did not seem interested in partaking in any extended BH to BH rallies. Strangely enough, most exchanges during the match were FH-dominated affairs, and even more surprising was to see Tomic win more than his fair share of them. Tactically, that’s rather questionable when facing Federer, but in this case, I think it’s impossible to say that it ended up being a bad idea. Tomic won plenty of points with his FH, and forced a good number of errors from Federer with it.
The problem for Bernie? Most of those forehand rallies took place during his own service games, given his abysmal returning performance tonight. Do recall that this was Tomic’s second straight woeful match in terms of putting someone else’s serve under pressure.
Roger Federer also showed that his wheels haven’t lost much of their grip: he played astonishing defense at points during the match, most importantly in that 5-3 point in the 2nd set Tiebreaker. And of course, Federer showed that he can still come up with some magic from time to time. The 31 year-old Swiss will need some more of that in his next few rounds, as his path to the later stages of this Australian Open get more and more complicated.
As for Bernard Tomic, there were many things to like about his performance. First, the FH had quite a showcase day today. Tomic seemed fully confident in that shot, and used it to great effect throughout the match. Yes, he did miss a FH in that key 5-3 point in the TB, but that was a “good” miss: he lined up the shot, went for it, and the execution was a little off. What I loved is how much depth Tomic seemed to consistently get with his FH – consistent depth being my main concern with that ultra-flat shot. And Tomic also seemed to get easy power off of it, going down the line, cross court, or inside-out. It was a truly impressive display.
However, there was plenty to dislike about Tomic’s return of serve performance today, particularly off Federer’s 1st serve. The Swiss managed to win 88% of the points played with his first delivery, and served 69% first serves throughout the match. What should be noted is that Federer’s astounding numbers were greatly aided by Tomic’s questionable court position when returning Federer’s serve – #BernieGOAT insisted on standing way behind the baseline for Federer’s 1st delivery (even worse, Tomic seemed to backpedal in some cases, something that is astoundingly unsound). After playing over 1000 pro matches in his long and illustrious career, Federer knew exactly what do in this situation: to out wide, since that angle is completely open. We all know how well Federer picks his spots when serving, and how deadly he is if he is allowed to get into a serving groove. Hence the lone break point face throughout the match.
In short, there were bright glimmers of promise from Tomic, as well as some serious question marks. Which for him is just business as usual.