It is no secret to fans that when it comes to tennis, Roger Federer is pretty much perfect. The Swiss is the most technically sound athlete in the game, with natural talent of humongous amounts and physical conditioning of a young tyke. And the fact that Roger Federer continues to be so technically sound even as he nears the age of 40 deserves plaudits on its own.
But really, Roger Federer IS perfect. He boasts of great technical attributes, with a precise serve, an authoritative forehand & a defensively strong backhand. He also does well in tactical attributes like changing the direction & pace of the rally, court craft & control in his timing of the ball.
If that was not enough, Roger Federer also has the endurance of a 200-metre sprinter and the agility of a super ball.
Yet, these are teachable attributes. What really sets Roger Federer apart from many of his peers is his mentality - the Swiss has a killer instinct & a winning mentality that would make even Muhammad Ali proud. And even when he is having an off day, Federer makes the opponent earn the victory.
Perhaps, these are the qualities which Roger Federer has used to give the tennis community one epic match after another. While most great performances by Roger Federer in such thrillers have seen the Swiss at his absolute zenith; there have been a few encounters in which the opponent played pound-for-pound tennis with the Fed Express.
For example, 2007 Wimbledon final, 2008 Wimbledon final, 2009 Australian Open final, 2009 Wimbledon final, 2014 Wimbledon final among a few others.
However, let's have a look at one of those matches that did not have as much historical significance as, say his 2008 Wimbledon epic vs Nadal, but prompted the Fed Express to use his tennis skills in full power regardless.
#5. Roger Federer d. Juan Martin Del Potro 3-6 7-6(2) 2-6 6-1 6-4 in 2009 French Open semifinal
Roger Federer was yearning for his 1st French Open title, having reached 3 finals in Paris by then, all of them ending in defeats to Rafael Nadal. He had also been outclassed in 9 clay-court finals by the Spanish Matador. However in 2009, Nadal had crashed out early as all the signs beckoned for the Swiss Maestro to finally win the one title that had eluded him all his career.
The stakes were at their highest when Roger Federer faced a young Juan Martin Del Potro in a match that was possibly the final before the final, with the winner facing Robin Soderling - the conqueror of Rafael Nadal - in the championship match. And the Argentine came to play in some style, hammering one forehand after another to Federer's backhand as he took a 2-sets-to-1 lead.
Those who have followed Roger Federer would know that the Swiss' greatest strength is his mind. Clearly seeing the match as his last opportunity at winning the French, Roger Federer upped the ante in the 4th.
At 2-1 40-40 in the fourth on Delpo's serve, Roger Federer showed how consistent his backhand really is as he imprisoned the Giant in his own backhand corner as the Swiss moved him around with his famed inside-out forehands. Eventually, Delpo would cave in and give Federer an easy ball to kill off with a drop shot.
The shining attribute of Roger Federer's game that day was his defense, which was simply impenetrable. Mixing up play with slices and a delectable cross-court backhand, Roger Federer put everything back in play as he tired the Argentine from the backhand. And when Delpo would least see it coming, Federer would end the point with a dastardly backhand down-the-line, winning 75% of his points in which he played a BH DTL as the penultimate shot.
#4. Roger Federer d. Andy Murray 6-3 6-4 7-6(11) in 2010 Australian Open final
After gaining well-deserved redemption in winning the 2009 French Open & the 2009 Wimbledon and also ending the season as the World No.1, Roger Federer was in fine form coming into the 2010 Australian Open. His road to the final was a tricky one with the likes of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Nikolay Davydenko and Lleyton Hewitt providing stiff competition.
But the pretenders could hardly contend with the Fed Express as he blasted his way to the 2010 AO final. On the other side of the net was Andy Murray, who Roger Federer had beaten in his maiden Slam final appearance 2008 USO. With revenge on his mind, the Brit would play some sharp tennis in the final but was always playing second fiddle to the Swiss genius.
Known primarily for his conversion in points that last between 1 to 3 shots, Roger Federer took Murray for a ride in the longer rallies in the first two sets, changing direction and punting winners at will. As the fight went to the final third, Murray was forced to charge his cross-court forehands with quite a bit of pace and was reaping a few rewards. Yet, just when it started to look as if Andy Murray had a look in the match, the Swiss sent him off to fetch with an unbelievable forehand angle.
Truly in his element that day, Roger Federer outclassed his opponent as he bossed Murray in his own service games, hitting 11 winners in Murray's service games in what was a fatal blow to the challenger's confidence - that's a quarter of the total winners that Federer hit all match. Besides the winners, Roger Federer showed Murray he had plenty to learn with his own mental strength in fine display, winning around 50% of his points while serving at 40-40 with a groundstroke winner.