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Federer delivers greatest shot in SF win

Posted by on Sep 13th, 2009 and filed under  Top Stories, Latest News, Tennis. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Federer_0913It’s hard to remember a time when Roger Federer felt flustered in Flushing. But as an ATP rookie 10 years ago he fell to a countryman in the US Open qualifying draw. At the ’03 Open, he followed his Wimbledon breakthrough with a major meltdown on Arthur Ashe Stadium against rival David Nalbandian.

Having already advanced to the quarterfinals in Melbourne, Paris and London, Federer didn’t reach that stage at the US Open until 2004. He’s never stumbled since.

The Swiss advanced to his sixth straight final by eliminating Novak Djokovic, 7-6(3), 7-5, 7-5, on Sunday for the third consecutive year on Arthur Ashe Stadium. Federer, who will play Juan Martin del Potro Monday, set up triple match point with what he called “the greatest shot I ever hit.”

After Djokovic brought Federer to the net with a drop shot and pushed him back to the baseline with a lob, Federer hit a between-the-legs, inside-out forehand winner with his back turned to the net that blitzed past Djokovic with the velocity of an ace.

“Even though it’s the third or fourth time I hit it in a match now, the way I was able to hit it with pace and accuracy, it’s something that happens so, so rare,” said Federer. “It was a semifinal of a Grand Slam after all. So to come up with that, to get match point against Djokovic here in the semis, is amazing.”

Seeking his 40th hard court title in his 40th consecutive Grand Slam appearance, Federer defeated Djokovic for his 40th straight US Open victory.

Both champions had their chances Sunday.

Djokovic opened with a love service hold as Federer struggled with his timing on four straight missed returns. Federer led off with a love service game as well after Djokovic made three return errors.

Federer threatened to strike first with a pair of break points at 2-2. But a forehand error off his racket and then a forehand winner off Djokovic’s racket sparked the Serb to hold his serve.

Four Federer errors later, Djokovic took a 4-2 lead. But he failed to consolidate his break, missing two forehands and a backhand before double-faulting to allow Federer back in the first set.

“That’s the worst game I played all match,” said Djokovic. “Who knows? If I was 5?2 up, a lot of things can change. If you win a set, it’s a big advantage. You could get the confidence. The opponent starts being a little confused and gets out of the comfort zone. But that’s tennis.”

On serve at 5-5, Djokovic survived a break point in a three-deuce game during which chair umpire Norm Chryst incorrectly overruled a service winner that Djokovic correctly challenged. The Serb endured seven incorrect line calls in the match, each of which were overturned thanks to Chase Review.

“I don’t know what happened today really with the line judges,” said Djokovic. “It’s unbelievable… how many times they missed, and not just close.”

With little separating No. 1 and No. 4 for much of the first set, Federer raised his game at 6-6. The Swiss carved a forehand drop shot for his fourth winner of the tiebreak to take a one-set lead.

He staved off trouble early in the second set by rallying from Love-30 down in the third game with three consecutive unreturnable wide serves and an overhead winner. Federer served his way out of a difficult game again at 3-3, surviving three deuces with timely serves that stretched Djokovic far into his forehand wing and opened the court for easy winners.

“Whenever he needed to serve well today, he did,” said Djokovic. “Whenever he needed to defend well from the forehand side or backhand side, that’s what he did. He used the opportunities. He put that extra pressure on me; when on the break balls or set points, he gets to the net. These things make a difference.”

Still on serve at 5-6, Djokovic saved a pair of set points when Federer missed on back-to-back backhands, working his way to game point. That’s when the five-time champion froze Djokovic with a crosscourt forehand winner to bring the score back to deuce.

Running side to side, Federer flicked a desperation crosscourt backhand that bounced off the tape and appeared to be easy prey for an awaiting Djokovic. But the Serb blew an easy backhand into the net, giving Federer a third set point, which the world No. 1 capitalized on with a down-the-line forehand winner.

“You’ve just got to make sure you kind of stay in the game,” said Federer. “But then it’s hard. I got off a good start on many occasions towards the end, and so I’m very happy that in those important moments I was able to come up with the goods.”

Though he failed to rescue the second set, Djokovic dodged danger at 3-4 in the third, saving two break points with matching 115 mph service winners. In the next game, he had two break points of his own, but couldn’t get out of the way of an overhead at 15-40 and failed to hit a menacing forehand past Federer at 30-40.

With no breaks between them in the third set, Djokovic again found himself serving at 5-6. Just as he did in the second set, Federer found another gear. He passed Djokovic with a crosscourt forehand for Love-15, before Djokovic double-faulted for Love-30.

That’s when — arguably the greatest player of all time — hit the self-proclaimed greatest shot of his career, bringing fans to their feet and Federer off his own as he celebrated triple match point with mid-air jubilation.

“That shot that he hit, you saw the reaction of the crowd,” said Djokovic. “But it was funny. On these shots, you just say, ‘Well done; too good.’ What can you do?”

Federer backed up his trick shot by running around his backhand and crushing a forehand return winner to reach his 17th Grand Slam final in the last 18 majors. His 5-0 record in US Open title matches is Federer’s best mark at any of the Slams.

In del Potro, the Swiss will face his sixth different opponent in his sixth consecutive US Open final. Federer survived a five-set affair at Roland Garros in his last meeting with del Potro, and he was impressed with the 20-year-old Argentine’s semifinal performance Sunday against Rafael Nadal.

“Del Potro had a great match today against Rafa, because Rafa doesn’t give you any easy matches,” said Federer. “So for him to come through the way he did, it’s, to say the least, impressive. That’s why he’s not to be underestimated.”

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