Federer, French Open Semifinals Breakdown
by Staff | June 4th, 2009, 10:31 pm
  • 40 Comments

A look at the semifinals at the French Open:

Roger Federer vs. Juan Martin del Potro


Two players stand between Federer and a first French Open title — the first of who has never won a set off him on five meetings. While he is Argentine, clay is not the ideal surface for the tall, lanky del Potro, who is forced to scramble and bend and reach and maintain an athletic balance. Federer beat him in straights during this year’s claycourt season at Madrid, and humiliated him earlier in the year, force-feeding him two bagels in a loss at the Australian Open.

Del Potro could make it competitive if he is on the top of his game, but insert the Swiss into his fourth consecutive (!) French Open final, with no Rafa in sight this time.

Robin Soderling vs. Fernando Gonzalez

Soderling has a new coach, a new attitude, and a little something called confidence that you get from beating Rafael Nadal in his living room, otherwise known as Roland Garros. Mats Wilander says Soderling’s strength is he “doesn’t give a sh*t,” and that’s the attitude he will need to take into the semis against the free-swinging Gonzalez.

Soderling’s coach is former French runner-up Magnus Norman, new for 2009, and happy to be with a young student after formerly coaching Swedish veteran Thomas Johansson. “This challenge appealed to me more, as I feel more involved with Robin,” Norman told RolandGarros.com. “He’s younger and listens more. I like that! Before starting work with Robin, we looked into what he needed to work on. His mental attitude was an obvious priority. So we talked a lot, discussed things. Before, he was like a teenager on court: now he’s a man. He became a great warrior with a cool head. That’s the thing I’m most proud of.”

Gonzo leads the head-to-head 4-3, including 2-0 on clay, in some tightly-contested matches. Flip a coin here, but if Soderling can continue his form in beating Nadal and de-pantsing Nikolay Davydenko, put the Swede in the final for a delicious meeting against a nervous Federer.


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40 Comments for Federer, French Open Semifinals Breakdown

Howard Says:

It would be a pity if Federer were to make his way to the title with no worthy challenge in the last two rounds. In a way, though, this is a fitting statement about his career.
Let me state firmly and unequivocally that I think Federer is a fantastic player equipped with rare, indeed sublime skills. He would have been a great had he come along in any era. The fact is, though, that he came along in an era of only middling competition at the top of the men’s game. It’s easy to forget this in light of Nadal’s recent successes and Federer’s own recent difficulties.
For 75 percent of his career, though, the quality at the top of the game was only fair to middling by historical standards. Just think of the players Sampras, Lendl, McEnroe, Borg, Connors or Laver had to contend with pretty much the length of their careers. Hard to compare.
Again, hats off to Roger is he can get #14 in Paris, but one would have wished for something stouter by way of competition.


Giner Says:

If Soderling can beat Nadal in Paris and back it up with a win over Davydenko, then he can beat anyone, including Federer though for some reason I don’t see it happening (Fed is good at beating lesser players who upset bigger players in the previous round). At first I thought he might have just been a fluke, and might pull off an upset only to lose in the next round which would have confirmed it. But he beat Davydenko, and I now think it’s within the realm of possibility that Soderling wins the title.

I never liked the kid, but it would be an incredible story for tennis if he won it and I’d be happy for him. It would be one to be talked about for a long time, much longer than if Nadal or Gonzalez had won it.

Magnus Norman was a good player. Very talented but an underachiever. He should have won one or two slams. Soderling is also talented, but I wouldn’t put him on the same level as Norman and Enqvist, who in turn were obviously not on the same level as Borg, Wilander and Edberg.


Voicemale1 Says:

I realize two matches are yet to be played. However, the title is on Federer’s racquet. A good friend of mine observed that he’s not just the most accomplished, but he’s also a much better defender than the other three. Del Potro is going to try to hit through Federer; it’s his only hope. Being so tall his movement on a slippery surface is what Federer will ruthlessly expose with his short slices, drop shots and hitting behind Del Potro – who doesn’t have much in the way of finesse. Federer has too many weapons for Del Potro to cope with, so it’s hard to see Federer not getting through this one.

Gonzalez would be the easier matchup for Federer. Gonzalez would suffer tantrums from his own frustration once he starts falling behind, and it’s rare for Gonzo to work his way back into a match. Soderling however, the way he’s been playing to date, could give Federer a match if he doesn’t become overwhelmed by the fact it’s a Major Final, and if he manages to keep pace with Federer on the scoreboard by holding his serve. If Soderling can manage that, then Federer could well start to get some wobbly knees if he hasn’t shaken off Soderling with a breathable cushion by the end of the Second Set. In fact Soderling’s chances would improve dramatically if he took the First Set. The pressure would increase manyfold on Federer. In the past, Federer has gotten the shakes in tight matches before, especially Finals. And for him, his career and his legacy, this French Open will be the biggest Final of all. He’s better than the rest, and this one should have his name on it. The only way he could lose this title is if he chokes.


Giner Says:

Howard Says:

“It would be a pity if Federer were to make his way to the title with no worthy challenge in the last two rounds. In a way, though, this is a fitting statement about his career.”

I would not hold that against him. There will be no asterisk if he wins this title.

People have said that he can’t win it unless he can avoid playing Nadal, which might be true, but none of that is his fault. If he played an injured or tired Nadal and won, I might put an asterisk on it, but if he didn’t play Nadal at all, then it’s completely got nothing to do with him and therefore no asterisk.

Andre Agassi was down 6-1 6-2 against Andrei Medvedev when the rain delay gave him a second win. No one talks about that though. It’s not the most stylish way to win a slam but a win is a win and what people will remember is the number of slams won, not who was in them. If you can beat your nemesis while doing it, then all the better, but I’d take it, even if the final was against Soderling.

I do think Fed will beat Del Po in 3, and then either Soderling in 3 or Gonzalez in 4. And then he will cry — the most tears he’s ever shed in his life, for his life is complete.


Voicemale1 Says:

By the way, if Soderling meets Federer and wins the title, would he be the first guy to beat both Federer AND Nadal in a Major?


Giner Says:

voicemale:

“In the past, Federer has gotten the shakes in tight matches before, especially Finals.”

Are you serious? In 18 slam finals he has only lost to ONE opponent: Nadal (5 times).

“And for him, his career and his legacy, this French Open will be the biggest Final of all.”

He will probably not admit to it being his biggest. He will give every credit to Wimbledon, being head and shoulders above every other Slam. He’s always played down RG and its importance or value to him. This one will be very meaningful though, and it could be his only French Open title.

“He’s better than the rest, and this one should have his name on it. The only way he could lose this title is if he chokes.”

I can’t see him choking. He doesn’t choke to anyone in finals except Nadal, and he has a lot of experience (13 wins in 18 slam finals). Soderling WILL be overwhelmed and Gonzalez has only one other finals appearance, AO 07 where he lost to Federer in straight sets, which will be another factor Fed will have to his advantage. The head to head is also lopsided in Fed’s favor.

It will take a massive choke for Fed to lose this, and choke he won’t. Fed in 3 or 4 sets. Fed will be GOAT next week. He only ties Sampras, but he wins a career GS which gives him more credit than winning only 3 of the 4.


Voicemale1 Says:

Giner:

Yeah, I’m serious. Australia was a Federer choke in the 5th. Hamburg 2008 Final was one of the most painful-to-watch chokes ever. Federer choked away a huge lead against Djokovic in Rome this year. He has done it, that why I mention it. And he’s had more the a few lapses in his early matches in this tournament, namely going down 1-5 to Acasuso in their 2nd Set; his losing two sets to Haas featured some very ugly shanks.

This would be by far his most important Final because it cements his place in his race with Sampras as some sort of GOAT (I don’t agree, but most will).

And..Relax dude. I didn’t say he was going to choke, I said it’s possible based on his history of having done it. And the main reason he gets tight against Nadal is the reason Nadal’s always given for being able to beat him: Nadal says if he stays with Federer, he usually beats him. Why? Because Federer is more comfortable blowing guys off the court as fast as possible. Staying close to Federer throughout and you’ll start to see more errors. Federer wants no part of The Final Set, which is exactly the moment Nadal lives for. That’s why I said Soderling’s only chance is to stay with Federer on the scoreboard. After that, anything can happen.

It’d be a much easier task for Federer if Gonzalez wins tomorrow. Gonzo doesn’t have the mental powers of hanging with Federer on the big occasion. Gonzalez will start over using the slice back hand and Federer will eat every one of those alive. In fact, Federer would very likely rout Gonzo in the same way Nadal routed Federer last year. He may well also rout Soderling if the Swede starts to feel the occasion. Both Soderling & Gonzalez serve big and have huger forehands. But Soderling is better off the back hand than Gonzalez, and he could make it tougher for Federer because of that.


Ra Says:

Asterisk schmasterisk. I can understand why that could be applied in record books in relation to performance enhancing drugs, but the whole notion makes no sense to me otherwise. For example, if one believes Federer should have an asterisk next to this title (if he gets it), doesn’t it then follow that anyone who wins this tournament and is not named Soderling should have the same? And where does it stop? Is it that a player must go through the defending champion to legitimately claim the title? Or maybe they’re supposed to go through someone who has a winning record against them? What happens then if a player has no nemesis who leads the h2h? Should all of their titles include asterisks?


Ryan Says:

“The fact is, though, that he came along in an era of only middling competition at the top of the men’s game”

These are just lame excuses for federer’s critics to just say he is not as great as people say he is. However people forget to mention that this so called weak competition is the one that took out nadal djokovic and murray in this french open. Its something like this….wen someone keeps winning 99% of the time then it means that either he is too good or his competition is too weak. It was the same argument used against michael phelps but that never stopped him from winning 8 golds. Its the same with federer. He has won grand slams beating nadal, djokovic and murray on his way. However I dont see the weak competition argument used against nadal. Has he ever faced a borg,kuerten,vilas or bruguera on clay. The only quality players he has always faced is djokovic in his early stages who was not a good clay courter and never provided any sort of competition for nadal and federer who’s weakest surface is clay.For federer, his backhand is a curse against nadal which is the main reason nadal wins. Now nadal is facing some real competition with djokovic tuning up his game on clay. Even the number 25 player Soderling beat him in 4 sets on his best surface. Now wen has that happened to federer on grass?


Giner Says:

Ra Says:

“Asterisk schmasterisk. I can understand why that could be applied in record books in relation to performance enhancing drugs, but the whole notion makes no sense to me otherwise. For example, if one believes Federer should have an asterisk next to this title (if he gets it), doesn’t it then follow that anyone who wins this tournament and is not named Soderling should have the same? And where does it stop? Is it that a player must go through the defending champion to legitimately claim the title? Or maybe they’re supposed to go through someone who has a winning record against them? What happens then if a player has no nemesis who leads the h2h? Should all of their titles include asterisks?”

That’s why I said there would not be any asterisks. There would be one if he played Nadal in the final, was down 2 sets and then Nadal retired from injury. NO ONE gets an asterisk for not playing Nadal or (insert any player here). You could argue a case for an asterisk if the winner benefits from some extreme fortune, such as an opponent withdrawing before the finals match, or if you had 3 days of rain delay after a very long semi final while the other guy had a quick match and was going to take advantage of your fatigue.

If you win the title without playing a final because your opponent who was favoured to beat you got into a car accident the day before, then I would place an asterisk on that win.

“Even the number 25 player Soderling beat him in 4 sets on his best surface. Now wen has that happened to federer on grass?”

Don’t speak too soon Ryan. You might jinx him!


Ray Says:

Just for the record, of Federer’s 13 Grand Slam Titles, the easiest oponents he’s had to deal with are probably Mark Philippousis at Wimbledon in 2003 and Baghdatis at the Australian in 2006. Still tough opponents at the time.

The rest of his opponents included Hewitt, Agassi, Djokovic, Murray, Roddick, Safin, etc.

The easiest opponents Sampras had to face were probably Cedric Pioline (2x), Tod Martin, Carlos Moya (at Australia – a lot easier than at the french), and then debatably Michael Chang (US Open). Michael Chang was tough, but if most top players were on their game they would bet on themselves to win.

Personally I would say Sampras had the easier opponents in Grand Slam Finals. But that’s not the point. To win 7 matches against the best players in the world, all playing for their piece of history is an achievement no matter the circumstances.

If Federer wins he should probably get his due.

He’s contested 18 of 23 Grand Slam Finals.
and 20 successive Grand Slam semi-finals. The mind boggles.


Ra Says:

Hi Giner,

yeah, I was more or less agreeing with you, so perhaps I should have said as much explicitly. I was also responding to some of the talk on other threads. Additionally, though, I can understand where you are coming from with a walkover final or a car accident, but I’ve long considered rain delays and the likes to be part of the tournament; and for that I don’t see an asterisk-worthy situation. To me, that’s just the way the cookie crumbles… hard luck and maybe a hard loss for someone.


Wade Says:

Come on guys anything can happen I mean who thought this would happen I almost laugh when I tell myself this if Federer wins Roland Garros he’ll be the champ at Roland Garros on clay and Nadal will be the champ at Wimbledon on grass. Wow who said Nadal is the clay king and federer is the grass king!!!!
Impossible is nothing go the underdog in that being SODERLING!! even know the arse took my favourute player down(Nadal).


Edward Says:

Had it ever really been about beating Nadal to get it or simply about getting it? Should he win Sunday, he will have officially proven that he could win the French and have all the majors on his resume’. But, I think he’s already proven his mastery of all surfaces over the last three or four years. The only real obstacle was Rafa’s muscle-balling approach. It took Federer a few years to get the hang of Hewitt and Nalbandian in their head-to-head situation, and I’m considering the idea that once the pressure to equal and surpass Pete’s record is over and done with, and having a French Open title on his shelf, he’ll start focusing his efforts on “righting the ship” in that department. Maybe.
But let’s concentrate on the matter at hand. There are no easy draws. Certainly not of late.


Ra Says:

Speaking of weather, Sunday’s forecast doesn’t look so good. Chilly, rainy, and a bit windy… Today looks decent though.


Edward Says:

Howard, you commented: “The fact is, though, that he came along in an era of only middling competition at the top of the men’s game.”

I disagree with you on this issue of inferior competition. I’ve viewed Federer’s era as having revealed an increasingly greater variety of competitors, in terms of power, technique, and variation of physicality during the course of tournaments. Federer has so far faced as many different players in his slam final appearances compared to Sampras, and more than any other top players from before. That says something about the increased number of competitors and challengers to Federer’s success. I credit Federer for having learned to become such an excellent tennis player, avoiding injuries, scheduling tournaments wisely in this era of power tennis, and most of all for handling the pressure, win or lose.


No GOAT Says:

Sorry to disappoint Federer fans but for the record why don’t we hear it from the man who knows tennis more than anyone else on this planet – bud collins on what has to say about the GOAT and put this GOAT to bed cause there never ever will be a GOAT.

“There is no doubt Roger is one of the greatest players of all time, and he has a chance to become the greatest player of this era,” said Bud Collins, a broadcaster and tennis historian for more than 40 years.

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601079&sid=a8P05Q2tU0hY


No GOAT Says:

“Sampras had tougher competition than Roger is having now, there is not much doubt about that,” Collins said at Roland Garros. “Sampras never won the French and that’s a blot. Now, if Roger wins, he will be one of six to have won all four, and that’s a great credit.”

who else agrees with this? not only did PS he have it tougher at RG but throughout his entire career. Is it fair to say that Sampras broke the record in a competitive era? And also that Sampras had met multiple grand slams champions through nearly every round of a grand slam tournament leading to the final? Unlike today, you meet your challenges from the QF and onwards.

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601079&sid=a8P05Q2tU0hY


Ra Says:

Oh, so now Bud Collins is the GOAT? Goat Schmoat.


No GOAT Says:

I agree Ra. Goat Schmoat :-)


Ryan Says:

“Sorry to disappoint Federer fans but for the record why don’t we hear it from the man who knows tennis more than anyone else on this planet ”

who the f@!% is bud collins compared to people who knows wat it takes to win slams like laver and borg.
Wen laver says something to the effect of roger being the greatest ever then the case is closed. For all the critics…go read up

http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Roger_Federer


Ra Says:

Ryan, I don’t believe in the whole GOAT thing, but Bud Collins saying so doesn’t exactly strike me as the be all/end all of tennis history either.

No GOAT, wouldn’t it be more persuasive to argue that Federer doesn’t even believe in a GOAT?


No GOAT Says:

Even RF said it himself that he isn’t the GOAT. Pete Sampras said the same when he broke the record that he isn’t the GOAT. Why is it that hard to swallow? Maybe you need to take the emotion out of the equation and then you’ll realize that there is no such thing as GOAT. Its only a personal emotion.


Ra Says:

Actually, I take that back. There may very well be or have been a GOAT; there’s just no way to know who that is, was, or will be. There’s no agreement on defined parameters, and, even if there were, there are too many variables that cannot be accounted for.

And as far as Sampras is concerned, I personally suspect that Andy Murray (on a really good day) would totally mess with Pete’s game. But that’s just an aside that points to possible idiosyncratic match-ups that we’ll never know about.


Ra Says:

Gonzalez looks to be getting it more together as the match goes on.


No GOAT Says:

sordeling should come through.


Ra Says:

Kimmi,

I have no idea what Soderling smoked, but I want some.


Hari Says:

Laver said that Federer “could” be the greatest tennis player of all time. I believe it is the “possibility” of such greatness that excites all of us.
Possibility of GOAT in span of our short life…


scineram Says:

Pete had weak competition.


Ra Says:

scineram, clearly you’re no Bud Collins.


tennis fan Says:

All of you GOAT debaters – lets wait till Fed’s career is over. As of right now he has not won the FO, yet.

As far as tougher competition during the Sampras era – Pete made just 1 FO semi! Whether Roger wins this tournament or not, he has made 5 straight semis, including 3 finals.

Who can honestly say that Pete Sampras faced a higher caliber opponent than Nadal during any of those years?


Voicemale1 Says:

This GOAT nonsense is fueled by The Tennis Media, most notably John McEnroe. This Federer-as-GOAT stuff can basically be traced back to John McEnroe and his brother Patrick, who occupy lofty television broadcasting perches to spew this stuff. The supposed inside scoop behind-the-scenes gossip of the tour is that the brothers do this because Sampras didn’t particularly like either one of them, especially Johnny Mac. It’s surmised that this is why J Mac can’t resist any chance to get in front of a camera and start opining Federer is better than Sampras (which JMac does ad infinitum).

Both Laver and Sampras are on record publicly on this GOAT stuff, and they both agree: no one can be considered a GOAT. The most you can do as a player is dominate your era. Both Sampras and Laver have stated that unequivocally. They also agree that if they themselves had played in eras other than the ones they did, they would have adjusted and been just as formidable as they were (e.g. – if anyone saw the ’91 AO Final between Becker & Lendl, it’s easy to see that those two were punishing the ball as well as anyone working today). They would have built their games around the equipment of today and have acquitted themselves admirably simply because they are both superb tennis players. And let’s face facts. If it was a simple matter of Major Titles that determines the GOAT, Laver then would have to be given special consideration, because he was barred from playing in the Majors from 1963-1967. I don’t think anyone disputes that had he played, his tally of 11 would have been much higher. Especially since in those days 3 of the 4 were played on grass, Laver’s best surface.

Unlike Sampras, Federer will carry more baggage with any GOAT status. Federer has decidedly losing records to two of his contemporaries: Nadal and Murray. Overall, Nadal has beaten Federer in the Final of three Majors on three different surfaces, and Murray has won 6 of their 8 career meetings. Conversely, Sampras has winning records against the vast majority of his most serious rivals: Agassi, Courier, Chang, and Becker (and these four guys account for 19 Major Championships). It’s tough for Federer to sustain a GOAT status unless he finds ways to either reverse or seriously close the gap in his H2H’s with Nadal & Murray.

But like Sampras, and Laver, and Lendl – Federer has been utterly dominant for 4 years. The records he’s carved out will stand for many, many generations to come: 237 STRAIGHT weeks at #1; 10 STRAIGHT Major Finals; 20 STRAIGHT Major Semi Finals; 5 STRAIGHT US Open Titles; 5 STRAIGHT Wimbledon Titles. It boggles the mind. Federer authoring one of the most impressive displays of dominance of an era? Absolutely. Federer as The Greatest Ever To Pick Up A Racquet? No.


No GOAT Says:

Voicemale1. You are correct. The Macs and Sampras were never best of friends. Mac has always had the big mouth of tennis and Pete would always shut it by letting his racquet do all the talking. Couldn’t agree with you more, well said.


huh Says:

We’ll all see what Murray does before even considering him a rival of Fed. Murray has played reasonably in only in best of 3 MS tournaments, but he still has a lot to prove in slams. Rafa, Djoko, Roddick, Fed, Hewitt and Safin etc held slams by his age.


huh Says:

Rivalries are made in slams and not in MS tournaments b.t.w.


huh Says:

We’ve gotta wait before even considering Murray as Fed’s rival. All I know is Murray having won some best of 3 setter HC masters.
By his age Rafa, Djoko, Rod, Safin, Hewitt, Fed etc had already won 1/ more SLAMS ! Murray still has much to prove
in slams.


huh Says:

Don’t get me wrong! I’m not saying that Murray is worthless, but that doesn’t mean Murray is a great rival of Fed either. One more thing working in Murray’s favour when facing Fed is that he’s 6/7 years younger than Fed. Don’t forget this.


grendel Says:

What a wonderful, wonderful match. It seemed that Gonzalez had broken Soderling’s heart with the most impressive DEFENSIVE play I think I’ve ever seen. Nobody else, including Nadal, could handle Soderling’s big shots – Gponzalez could, did, and then set himself up to unleash his own peculiar brand of aggression.

Out of nowhere, Soderling hauls himself back in, and having looked a beaten man, plays again with the abandon which characterised his play generally in this tourney – and this time, it proved too much even for Gonzalez.

A couple of thoughts. Gonzalez is a uniquely accomplished player, and how sad, and kind of unjust – like life, eh? – if he ends his career without a grand slam. Sure, he deserves one. An absolute one off, a player who will always be remembered when others with slams to their names sport a little question mark in our minds.

And then Soderling: he’s come of age, hasn’t he? The flaky, angst ridden Scandanavian is no more. That comeback spoke volumes for his strength of mind. If Federer beats del Potro, he’s got one hell of a struggle on his hands. Right now, in my mind (a useful gauge because I am everyman, the enthusiastic amateur without real knowledge), Soderling is favourite to lift the title.


jane Says:

grendel I take it you posted this prediction after the Soderling win but before Federer beat JMDP; just wondering if you still feel the same?


sheila Says:

voicemale1 says goat fueled by tennis media, most notably, john mcenroe. i totally agree w/u. i get sick & tired of these sports announcers saying things that, if they fall short, then they r less than. funny, nadal, b4 losing 2 soderling was about 2 become goat and then he loses and now its this or that. nadal, in post interview after loss 2 soderling said everyone starts analyzing this and that and it all means nothing. 4 me, i hope roger can pull this out. i have been a long time fan and would love 2c him win this. soderling is playing phenomenal tennis and may very well win this(i hope not). roger, post interview after winning delpo, on paper he has 9-0 record, but roger said that means nothing. also roger has said for a long time that soderling is a very dangerous player. i guess i am guilty of analyzing a match, but i hope roger pulls this off.

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