Roger Federer Presser: I Tried To Keep Playing Tough, Make Del Potro Understand How Far He Still Had To Go To Win
by Tom Gainey | June 5th, 2012, 6:23 pm
  • 12 Comments

For the 31st time in his career, Roger Federer is into a Grand Slam semifinal. Federer won a 5-set thriller beating Juan Martin Del Potro 36, 67, 62, 60, 63. It was the seventh time in his career Federer came back from two sets.

It was Federer’s third comeback from two sets at the French Open. The 30-year-old Swiss also improved to 19-16 in matches decided in a fifth set. Federer now leads del Potro 12-2 in their series.

Federer spoke about the win afterward: (congrats to all the Federer fans!)

Q. In the first two sets especially, I mean, it looked as if Del Potro’s resistance to your groundstroke rhythm had improved and he was playing much better than before in the groundstrokes. Then in the rest of the match you suddenly seemed to take over. What made the difference between the start and the end of the match?

ROGER FEDERER: Well, I mean, comparing to this year’s matches, it’s obviously the first one on clay. Conditions are slow, particularly on clay. That makes it hard for a lot of variation. You don’t get any free points on the serve.

Anything that’s maybe short rallies and chips and down the line shots, it’s a better match for me. He obviously like to go back into backhand and then rip the forehand once he gets the chance.

I thought it was very good conditions for him. I knew it was going to be tough anyway. I have still been struggling to find my rhythm. I did feel it in the first set, even though he was up two sets ­­ two breaks. I was finding a way back and starting to feel better.

Just trying to figure out how to play a guy who returns from so far back on a slow court. Do you try to serve through him? Which I tried; didn’t work. Or do I try and move it around a bit. And that worked a bit better, but it was really in the mix­up that, you know, I found success.

Second set was a tough, you know, set for me to lose, but he played a really good breaker and got the better of me. But I was happy that the first two sets took some time, because I did favor myself once the match got longer. That’s kind of how it came.

So I’m very happy with the way I fought and started in the third set, fourth set, and even in the fifth set where obviously it was the toughest, because that was his last chance and his resistance maybe was the biggest there.

Q. You said that you felt that as the match went on your chances would improve. Did you feel his physical condition started to deteriorate a bit when he had the trainer on and they were looking at his knee? How did you feel he was moving at that stage?

ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I don’t know. He called the trainer but he didn’t take a timeout. So I didn’t know what they were talking about, if he got painkillers or what happened. So I was just trying to focus on me, really, because I was in trouble. He wasn’t.

Maybe his knee was, I don’t know. But doesn’t matter how bad that knee is, maybe he can just sit on it and just say, Okay, here. Take the two next sets. I will wait here half hour, 45 minutes, and then I’ll come back in the fifth set and I will destroy you.

I knew it was going to be a tricky match, I knew that margins were not on my side anymore. That’s where I just tried to keep playing tough, make him understand how far he still had to go, as well, because I had a very long way.

I was able to do all of those things, and I was very happy the way I played, you know, starting the third set.

Q. It was a rare shout out from you at the end of the second set tiebreak. I couldn’t quite tell what it was about. Were you frustrated with your game or with the crowd?

ROGER FEDERER: No, I mean, look, I was pushing hard and I was trying to ­­ should have maybe won that second set earlier. I’m stuck in a breaker. Juan Martin is playing well, hitting hard, I’m in defense.

Obviously I was emotional and I was, you know, sometimes upset. Sometimes just trying to push myself on. Push harder and try harder and move faster, all those things, because I knew it could be crucial to the match.

Thank God it wasn’t, but in the moment itself you don’t know. So you wait and see.

Q. What does it feel like being two sets down in a Grand Slam? What did you think about maybe your match against Tommy Haas here a few years ago when you returned to the game, of course, and won?

ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, of course I did think of the Tommy Haas match. Of course I thought about the five­setter I had here with Juan Martin in 2009.

Maybe I drew some inspiration off it. But then again, completely different place, you know. Suzanne Lenglen; it’s raining. It’s a different situation, really.

But, you know, you just try to push further and it’s not easy, you know. But at the same time you are happy it’s a Grand Slam, because any other tournament I would have been out of the tournament.

This way, you know, the road to victory is much longer and it’s not a sprint; it’s a marathon. I’m happy I came through. I feel great, you know, after the five­setter.

So I’m obviously happy I get two days, but it’s not necessary. Looking forward to a big semifinal.

Q. When you’re playing Novak, how much do previous encounters go into your thinking going into the match?

ROGER FEDERER: I mean, it’s helpful if you’ve won the last three, four, five, maybe. Obviously it helps to win one like he did in Rome, I would think.

But then again, this is the best situation. It’s the best­of­five. It’s something we’re not ­ I don’t want to say accustomed to anymore as much, because we did play many more best­of­five set matches, let’s say, seven to ten years ago when all of the finals or many of the tournaments like in Basel, for instance, Gstaad, Vienna. You name it, they were all best­of­five set finals. The Masters 1000, most of them, were best of­five­set finals.

So you used to play many more. Now all of a sudden you can go six months and not play almost any five­setter, and even three years, let’s say.

So it’s a different approach, and I think we’re both aware of that. We’re looking forward to it. Give us more time to find our range, and once we find our range, it’s going to be tough for the opponent.

Q. You just said best­of­five you need a different approach. Can you talk about what some of the best approaches are of best­of­five over best­of­three against him?

ROGER FEDERER: Doesn’t matter if it’s Novak or any other player really. You just want to be well prepared; you want to be mentally ready for a long day.

Obviously over five sets, as well, the rain or the sunshine could come and go. You have more possibility of interruption just because you’re out there for a longer period of time. It’s a different kind of approach.

Obviously the start to the match is important, but then again, we saw that it didn’t matter at the US Open when we played each other; it didn’t matter this time when we played; to Del Potro it didn’t matter.

So that sometimes just keeps you honest to the very, very end, and you have to play as hard as I can every single point against him and see how it goes.

THE MODERATOR: French questions.

Q. Can you explain the beginning of this match? Were there any specific reasons to explain the beginning of your match?

ROGER FEDERER: No, I was just trying to find my game. The court was very slow. I served at 200 kilometers per hour and he returned very nicely, so it wasn’t like in Madrid.

Q. On a scale from 0 to 10, how well did you play today? Should you prefer to play Djokovic or Nadal?

ROGER FEDERER: Well, Rafa, I’m not playing him next time. He’s not even qualified for the final, so I’m playing Novak. I hope I’ll play a very good match.

I don’t know. If my level was one for all of my previous matches, I know that I have to reach a level of 10 to play against him. So that’s all I can say. We’ll see.

We’ll see how fit he is. I know I have to play a great match.

Q. Novak saved four match points against Jo. You probably know that. What would you have to say about this match?

ROGER FEDERER: Well, I’m very disappointed for Jo. I would have loved to play him here in Paris.

It’s like in Bercy. He missed two match points against Isner; he missed four here. I have a feeling that the crowd would have loved to see such a match. For him, it’s a disappointment.

As for me, it’s nothing different as from last year. I’m playing Djokovic in the semifinal.

Q. During the two first sets, you were trying to find your tennis. Could you say that you found it during the two last sets?

ROGER FEDERER: No, I won’t say that. Everybody said the same thing about Gasquet when he had 6­Love, 6­Love and then lost to Murray.

But anyway, I’m very happy I managed to go through to the semifinals.

Q. This was a complicated match, but do you think you can raise your level to defeat Djokovic as you did last year?

ROGER FEDERER: Yes. What else can I say?

Q. A question from your fans, which is not much to do with the match: You were born very close to the French/Swiss border. Are you certain you were born in Switzerland?

ROGER FEDERER: I think yes. I can’t remember because I was very small, very little when it happened. (Laughter.)

But my mother told me it was in Basel, so it was on the Swiss side and not on the French side. But if you want confirmation, ask my mother. She knows everything about it.

Q. You lost to Tsonga in five sets in Wimbledon. You also lost to Djokovic in five sets. Would this victory in five sets confirm that you can win a match in five sets?

ROGER FEDERER: I know I can win a match in five sets. I should have, I could have, against Jo or Novak. It was so close against Novak. Afterwards it’s normal to have regrets.

No, I’m not asking myself that kind of question. I’m fit. I have no physical problems, which was different three, five weeks ago. I’m very happy. I’m in good shape. That’s it. I’m fine.

It’s always good to come back from two sets to zero. You don’t always play matches in five sets, and that was the one I had to win.

Q. This is your 31st semifinals in a Grand Slam, like Jimmy Connors. Do these figures still matter to you?

ROGER FEDERER: Well, yes, a bit. It’s an inspiration for an athlete, for a tennis player. I find inspiration from great matches, from other players. I find inspiration in records.

I need many different things: Fans, tournaments, traveling. I need many things to push me to accomplish even more. So when I break a record like this one, it’s phenomenal and I like it.

Q. We’ve seen you asking for different balls when it’s raining like this. Are you trying to get the driest possible balls?

ROGER FEDERER: Well, we players, we no longer have time to choose the balls. I try and do that very quickly, and I think about the situation in the tiebreak.

Well, the ball boy would roll the ball behind you, and I just wanted to see how we would stop it. I did this four times. I was a bit stern, but the ball boys are very good. I just wanted to see if he could catch it, and they did each time.

I needed this to relax mentally for 10 seconds. I didn’t want not to be nice to the ball boy.

Highlights:


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12 Comments for Roger Federer Presser: I Tried To Keep Playing Tough, Make Del Potro Understand How Far He Still Had To Go To Win

sheila Says:

mama mia what a match. so glad federer pulled it out. disappointed tsonga did not pull it out. i think rogers chances against tsonga might have been better. i think hes the underdog w/playing djokovic. hope roger pulls out the upset. my fantasy: c roger in final against nadal & roger wins it. nice to dream, but lets b real nadal will take this tournament once again, whether he plays djokovic or federer. hes simply unbeatable.


Michael Says:

There is a silly question to Roger as to whether he can win five set matches. Probably they are not aware that they are speaking to a man who has amassed 16 majors.


Nirmal Kumar Says:

There is a silly question to Roger as to whether he can win five set matches

Yes, he can, but the opponent has to be injured.


Michael Says:

Nirmal,

You are too much prejudiced against Roger. I will just recall three instances which I can remember when he came back from two sets to love.

Federer against Berdych at the Australian Open
Federer against Tipsaveric at the US Open
Federer against Nadal at Wimbledon when the latter was leading by two sets to love but still Roger came back into the match but unfortunately lost 9-7 in the end due to light issues.

And still you are saying that the opponent has to be injured if Roger is to come back from two sets down. That is really not fair.


Michael Says:

Nirmal,

Moreover Roger doesn’t need such kind of divine intervention to beat players like Del Potro. Remember the H2H is 11-2 in his favour and that tells you something about his dominance.


AP Says:

In case of Federer, I think he needed that Shut up today to ignite the fire within himself. It was after that Shut up, he came out more strongly and more motivated to prove a point to everyone who had thought that at age 30, it would be hard for him to win a 5 setter. I had said it earlier and will say it again for Federer: Age might be a mental barrier in the minds of others but not his as with age comes a deadly weapon: Experience!

Del Potro- Sliced and Dropped by Federer & Knee! http://tinyurl.com/7jf883z


King Federer Says:

Nirmal,

what are you on? federer can’t win 5 set matches unless opponent is injured? would you please pull your head out of your @$$? or is your head too bloaten up with cr@p to do that?


steve-o Says:

Djokovic comes back from two sets to love down against the world #25, a man who has never won more than a 250-level title, and everyone is full of praise for his awesome fighting spirit.

Federer comes back from two sets to love down against the world #9, a former Grand Slam champion, and everyone is totally unimpressed and says it was only because his opponent was physically not at his best (although he seemed pretty spry in the first two and the final set).

Yes, Roger Federer is judged by far more exacting standards than other players. But that’s just another sign of how awesome he is.


King Federer Says:

You have to blame the nadal generation for making injuries seem like a legitimate excuse for losing and denigrating an opponents’ victory. nadal/djokovic have to take the majority of the blame as they make a mockery of the MTOs and injuries.

back in the days, people who used to say they were injured wouldn’t run like rabbits in a matter of minutes after the said “injury”. either these players are lying or they are wussies who think even a mosquito bite qualifies as an injury!

nadal, djokovic, murray and now journalists making excuses for delpo, even when the guy himself never made one. tennis players and journalists need to realise balls doesn’t refer only to the ones they play with. if they dont have a pair themselves, they better grow some and play like real men and real athletes. ALL athletes go through injuries. STFU and play.


Michael Says:

Well said King Federer. I think it is not fair to discount Roger’s victory against Del potro on the premise of an injury. The Press unfortunately is making mountain out of mole hill. Infact Del Potro himself says that he did not take any pain killers and was just cutting the tape rounded on his leg. Despite this, we hear cries of Del Potro’s injury from the Press, Nadal fans etc. As far as me is concerned, if a player opts to play a match then it is assumed that he is fully fit and he must not make any excuses. That must be the spirit.


Dave Says:

“There is a silly question to Roger as to whether he can win five set matches. Yes, he can, but the opponent has to be injured.”

The press and laymen speculated that Del Potro was impacted by a previous knee injury. If this is true, it balances Delpo beating Federer at the 2009 US Open, when Federer was suffering from a chronic bad back (see link).
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/incoming/federers-back-needs-a-break/article1345547/

However, Delpo himself said he was not affected by any supposed injury. In his presser, Del Potro twice asserted that his knee did not affect him during the match (“Are you saying that your knee did not affect your movement at all after the second set?” Delpo: “No.” Q: “Did you feel pain?” Del Potro: “No. What I felt was that Federer was playing his best tennis.”)
http://www.rolandgarros.com/en_FR/news/interviews/2012-06-05/201206051338921074941.html

Despite this, the news media has been quick to publicize the narrative that Del Potro lost largely due to a ‘press-speculated’ knee injury (e.g., “Del Potro’s ailing knee reportedly became a serious issue. Del Potro slowed… And if it was the knee that did him in as the reports indicate, that’s going to haunt him”).

Contrary to some news media reports that Federer was on the ropes after two sets and was lucky to win due to Del Potro’s supposed “knee injury”, Federer was just getting started according to both players in their pressers. Delpo had started the match with the urgency to win in three straight sets. Federer, given his endurance and efficient game, always had the luxury to win in five sets if needed. To presume that Federer could not have won the match unless Delpo was injured shows lack of understanding of what the very greatest champions are made up of and lack of respect for Federer’s track record.

This was always a match that was possible for Federer to win. After all, Federer, who is now 12-2 against Del Potro, had won 5 straight matches (11 straight sets) against Delpo since 2011 Cincinnati. Federer’s only 2 losses to Delpo came in late 2009 when Federer was suffering from chronic back injury.

Of course no player can turn around every match. But Federer’s fighting spirit and problem solving skills are unparalleled — how else can we explain Federer’s overwhelming dominance of ATP records? Since after 2011 US Open, Federer is 53-4, Djokovic 41-9 and Nadal (before Almalgro match) 47-8. Federer has not just won 237 grand slam matches (against just 35 loses), Roger is currently in second place for most match wins at the French Open (just two match wins from tying Guillermo Vilas for most match wins).Furthermore, Federer is now 19-16 in matches decided in a fifth set. Given his negative 9-10 five setter record as recently as mid 2007, Federer has been winning more five setters than he loses. Against Delpo, Federer fought back from two sets to love down for the seventh time in his career. It was Federer’s third comeback from two sets to love down at the French Open. He also did so against Sargis Sargsian in 2001 and Tommy Haas in 2009. Thus coming back from two sets down was always possible. Federer remains a winner with the soul of a champion:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ATP_World_Tour_records#ATP_Grand_Slam_tournament_history

Del Potro’s power mesmerized the media into ignoring alternative explanations for what happened. For example, it’s possible Del Potro’s mind and game broke down under pressure from Federer progressively imposing his game — just as like it happened in a couple of Delpo’s recent losses to Federer (e.g., Indian Wells). In the first two sets, Federer’s ‘B game’ was enough to jerk Del Potro around the court, forcing him to deal with different ball spins and positions — while taking out his lungs, legs and rhythm. Like Verdasco once said, playing two sets with Fed is like playing five sets with other players. Roger surely knew that he just needed to outlast Delpo, who had played longer matches in earlier rounds. In the first two sets, despite his 28 unforced errors, Federer had as many breakpoints (7) as Del Potro — the difference was Del Potro converted 4 breakpoints to Federer’s 2. Despite Del Potro’s pounding the ball and taking the first two sets, Federer was growing stronger, finding his rhythm, mixing things up and beginning to find the right game plan to get into the match. Federer the big match winner used his problem solving skills to figure things out and turn around the match.

- Federer: “I was just trying to find my game (at the beginning of this match). The court was very slow. I served at 200 kilometers per hour and he returned very nicely, so it wasn’t like in Madrid… I thought it was very good conditions for him. I knew it was going to be tough anyway. I have still been struggling to find my rhythm. I did feel it in the first set, even though he was up two breaks. I was finding a way back and starting to feel better. Just trying to figure out how to play a guy who returns from so far back on a slow court. Do you try to serve through him? Which I tried; didn’t work. Or do I try and move it around a bit. And that worked a bit better, but it was really in the mix-up that I found success… Second set was a tough set for me to lose, but he played a really good breaker and got the better of me… But I was happy that the first two sets took some time, because I did favor myself once the match got longer. That’s kind of how it came… So I’m very happy with the way I fought and started in the third set, fourth set, and even in the fifth set where obviously it was the toughest, because that was his last chance and his resistance maybe was the biggest there…. I knew it was going to be a tricky match, I knew that margins were not on my side anymore. That’s where I just tried to keep playing tough, make him understand how far he still had to go, as well, because I had a very long way. I was able to do all of those things, and I was very happy the way I played starting the third set….This way the road to victory is much longer and it’s not a sprint; it’s a marathon. I’m happy I came through. I feel great after the five-setter.”
http://freedomtennis.wordpress.com/2012/06/05/roger-federer-june-05-2012/#more-210

- Del Potro: “(Federer) start to play much better than in the beginning of the match and I feel his ball more in the baseline. He put me to run a lot in the third and fourth set. He made better match than me after the second set. I don’t have any chance to win until the first game in the fifth set when I had break point…. As I said, I played very well at the beginning. Then he started playing better. I missed a few serves, as my serve was not as good as in the first two sets. Then my game was no longer the same… Let me say that again: Federer played much better. I had to make efforts to serve better, and he did everything so that my serve was not as good as I wanted it to be and I couldn’t take my chances. I had opportunities. I missed them; when he had opportunities he won, and that made the difference.”

- Q: “Are you saying that your knee did not affect your movement at all after the second set?” Delpo: “No.” Q: “Did you feel pain?” Del Potro: “No. What I felt was that Federer was playing his best tennis. As I said, he raised his level; mine started to decrease. We started at the same level. The match was very close. He took my serve on the first set; then I took his back. During the third and fourth set when his level raised, mine went down. In the fifth set I gave everything I had. I gave him an opportunity, and he took it.
Well, until the very last ball I thought I could win, even if I was down 5-2 during the fifth set. I have enough experience now and I can come back even when the match is very complicated and we’re in the fifth set. That’s why I was never discouraged. Well, I always think that Federer has far more experience than I have and he can win a match more quickly. Against another player I could have won a break and I could have won perhaps, but it was Federer.”
http://www.rolandgarros.com/en_FR/news/interviews/2012-06-05/201206051338921074941.html

In 1969, Rod Laver dropped 17 sets in the four major tournaments to 12 players — Laver played SEVEN four setters and FIVE five setters on the way to winning the Calendar Year Grand Slam of all four major championships. In reality, Laver probably dropped the equivalent of another 3 to 5 more sets, given that he played several sets with scores of 18-16, 14-12 etc (no tiebreaker was used). Take a good look at Laver’s path through each of the four majors in 1969 — this is what the greatest champions are made up of. They win, not matter how ugly.
http://tinyurl.com/6tbmua2
http://tinyurl.com/7s3tl6g
http://tinyurl.com/783dzys
http://tinyurl.com/7tckg2o


Skeezer Says:

Dave,

Thanks for putting that together, great stuff!

Top story: Federer, Nadal Breeze In Basel; Murray, Ferrer Advance In Valencia
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ATP - Oct 20 WTA - Oct 20
1 Novak Djokovic1 Serena Williams
2 Roger Federer2 Maria Sharapova
3 Rafael Nadal3 Simona Halep
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6 Tomas Berdych6 Agnieszka Radwanska
7 Kei Nishikori7 Eugenie Bouchard
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