Federer Roars Back Into Form
Five-time champion to carry 11-0 record into fourth-round clash with Kohlschreiber
Sharper, more confident and more consistent. It’s the report card that comes as music to Roger Federer’s ears after finding his range to cruise past Feliciano Lopez into the fourth round at this year’s US Open on Saturday.
In a worrying sign for his second-week opponents, the rust from the five-time champion’s opening two matches was rarely seen in a 6-3, 6-3, 7-5 dismissal of the Spaniard. His showdown with the 35- year old was the oldest match-up at the US Open since Jimmy Connors and Ivan Lendl squared off in 1992.
The Swiss was 15-1 in third-round US Open matches coming in, with his lone defeat coming at the hands of Lopez’s countryman Juan Carlos Ferrero on debut in 2000. But the result rarely looked in doubt as the 36 year old improved his unbeaten FedEx ATP Head2Head record against the serve-volleying Spanish lefty to 13-0.
“It was clearly nice to go up two sets to love for a change. Feels different from there,” Federer grinned in reference to his opening two five-set struggles. “Overall I have felt better, too. I was happy I had good energy because I think that was my biggest worry, that somehow after the two five-setters that I had, I was going to feel a little slow, hard to throw the engine on, that I would have to force myself so much, I would get tired from that.
“It didn't happen. I think I really got off to a good start. The first set was fast. Then the second set was close. Maybe I was struggling with my serve for a little bit to keep the level up … It was also good to get through those tougher moments.
“A little bit of a wobble in the third maybe. But it's all good. I'm really pleased with the performance.”
DID YOU KNOW?
Federer moved into second place in the all-time aces list during his win over Lopez. The Swiss came into the match four aces behind Goran Ivanisevic. He hit 13 aces on Saturday night for a career total of 10,140.
Career Ace Leaders
Note: ATP began tracking ace totals in 1991. Federer's career aces total does not include results from Davis Cup, the 2000 and 2004 Olympics, and the 1999 Basel second round.
A lunging flicked backhand pass from Federer brought up set point on the Spaniard’s serve at 5-2 in the opening set. Lopez survived that but relinquished the set a game later when Federer sent down his fifth ace at the 24-minute mark.
Even out of position, the Swiss was at his improvising best. Crammed into a short backswing on the forehand wing, he guided a forehand down the line past Lopez to bring up two set points at 5-3 in the second set and surged to a two-set lead when his opponent misqueued a backhand wide.
When Lopez rolled down his first double fault of the match to concede the break for 1-3 in the third set, the contest looked all but over. But an error-ridden lapse cost the Swiss his serve in the ensuing game – the first time the Spaniard had broken him in their past four matches. The No.3 seed stepped it up a level to pounce on the Lopez serve at 5-6, working his way to an off-forehand winner to bring up a match point.
His fourth-round meeting with No. 33 seed Philipp Kohlchreiber was complete when the Spaniard netted one final forehand at the one-hour, 48-minute mark. Federer will carry an equally imposing 11-0 FedEx Head2Head record into his match with the 33-year-old German.
“I guess I maybe needed just a few hours here on this court,” Federer said. “I needed to get over the fear of the back issue, especially in that first match, the first set. Then I think the wobble I had in the second round was due to my preparation.
“I think now I'm just trusting my movement better. My serve is there. My mind is there. I can finally focus on playing tennis and not so much, you know, about the past. So it's nice to be in the present in my mind, looking ahead, thinking tactics.”
Kohlschreiber earlier booked his fourth-round berth with a 7-5, 6-2, 6-4 victory over Australia's John Millman. Kohlschreiber joked in his on-court interview that he would prefer a contest with Lopez on Monday.
He will look to reach his first Grand Slam quarter-final in five years, since making the last eight at Wimbledon in 2012 (l. to Tsonga). The German has rebounded strongly at the US Open, having missed the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events in Montreal and Cincinnati. He is playing his first tournament since winning the eighth title of his career in Kitzbuhel (d. Sousa).
"I had a good preparation, even though I didn't play the previous tournaments on hard courts," Kohlschreiber told ATPWorldTour.com. "I worked on my fitness and had great focus for the tournament. The draw is also a crucial thing and I've had pretty good opponents for my game style. But overall, I'm feeling pretty great.
"For me, winning is the major thing to build the confidence. Everybody can play great tennis, but it's about how much you believe. The last two tournaments on clay I played pretty good, [SF in Hamburg, title in Kitzbuhel]. I found my rhythm and my level again and took it from the clay-court season to New York."