Federer hangs tough to scrape past Haas

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Federer hangs tough to scrape past Haas

Post  YaSSiN on Tue Jun 02, 2009 4:06 am

Roger Federer came back from two sets down to beat Tommy Haas 6-7(4) 5-7 6-4 6-0 6-2 on Monday afternoon and secure a place in the French Open quarter-finals. The Swiss 13-time Grand Slam champion was given an almighty scare by the unseeded German, who was five points from a straight sets victory before fading badly in the last two sets.

Some matches swing back and forth while others hang on one turning point, and this clash was very much in the latter category – a proverbial game of two halves that could so easily have ended in a shock three-set win for the unfancied Haas.

Out of sorts

Federer was strangely out of sorts right up until he saved a crucial break point that would have left his 31-year-old opponent needing only to serve out for the biggest clay-court win of his career. Haas will rue coming so close to defeating the three-time Roland Garros finalist, but unlike Robin Soderling on Sunday night, he was unable to finish off his more storied opponent.

Federer was quick to pick out that break point as crucial: "I knew I was going to look back on that shot. That saved me on that day, you know. That's exactly what happened, and I was able to turn around the whole match. It's a great feeling, because I was in quite some danger right there."

An escape act such as this may well convince Federer that this is finally to be his year at the French: rarely can he have played as poorly for almost two sets mid-match and still won, especially on clay. Haas in contrast was solid without being spectacular.

Two set lead and break point

In the opening set, Federer son his own service game six times to love but could not break his opponent’s strong serve. Unforced errors crept in and handed the tie-break to the German 7-4, but this seemed to be only a temporary blip as the Swiss broke to open the second. At 4-2 however, something changed. Federer’s timing was suddenly out, his choice of shot questionable and his confidence low. Haas broke back without having to hit a direct winner, and then more wayward hitting from Federer at 5-6 gave the German a two set lead.

"I was struggling throughout the first two and a half sets from the baseline. I was serving all right, and that was keeping me in the match," said Federer.

An upset was very much on the cards though and became more imminent when Federer faced that crucial break point at 30-40, 3-4. And this is when the 13-time Grand Slam champion stood up to be counted. A brilliant inside-out forehand brought him to deuce, a great serve gave him advantage and when Haas hit his next return long, Federer was breathing a huge sigh of relief at 4-4.

"After this big forehand, the inside out point. I said, That's a turnaround. That's a turnaround, the inside out. The forehand," said Federer.

The genial Swiss still needed to break Haas of course, and fortunately for him it was now the German’s turn to show signs of nerves. A double fault and unforced error on a volley him Federer his first break since the start of the second set, and four big serves later, the third set was in the pocket and Federer was back in the game.

Complete turnaround

The tide had definitively turned, and from there on, Haas crumbled. It was Federer’s turn to dominate rallies and finding his first serve with crushing regularity.

Was it frustration at allowing Federer back into the match after coming so close to victory, or was the former world No2 merely feeling his 31 years? Either way, Federer won 15 of the last 17 games to win what turned out to be an incredibly short five-setter at three hours and seven minutes.

The Swiss maestro is now only three matches from finally completing the career Grand Slam, and events over the past 24 hours will no doubt convince him that this is the year that his name will finally be engraved on the Coupe des Mousquetaires.

Haas was left with regrets and frustration: "Yeah, it's frustrating, because you know you're very close. You know, on that break point, you win that point you're serving for the match. You know, when you play against the second best player in the world on Centre court and you know you have a chance to maybe close it out and maybe serve it out for the match, and, you know ‑‑ but this is tennis. It's a sport. It's never over till the last point, and we all know that when we go out there. It's just what happens."


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