French Open 2019: Federer advances to the fourth round with a win over Ruud
It was Federer’s 400th Singles Grand Slam appearance. On the other hand, hitting the ball cleanly and firmly, looking strong off both wings, it was a steady start for the 20-year-old Casper Ruud in his third round match against Roger Federer at this year’s French Open.
In fact, Ruud was playing so well on Suzanne-Lenglen Court that anybody would have thought that at least the first set was going to be a tight contest. But great players give their opponents hardly any margin for error, and Federer is undoubtedly, one of the greatest. It is this ability that separates the Big Three from the other players on tour in modern day tennis.
At 3-3, 30-30, Ruud's backhand slice was long, and it gave Federer an opportunity to break, which the Swiss converted as he guided a backhand down-the-line passing shot. Though the world number three had to dig deep the very next game for a service hold to consolidate the break, his precisely-crafted service returns gave Ruud no room to create angles on the court and the Norwegian was promptly broken for a second time. Federer won the first set 6-3.
After watching the first 6 games of the first set, Federer's fans would have wondered if he could match Ruud's baseline power and speed. However, just nine minutes into the 2nd set, Federer started hitting the ball at will, with power and precision, as he raced to a 3-0 lead.
Casper Ruud would have realized that mere firepower was not enough to trouble the 2009 French Open champion. In 27 minutes, the second set was Federer's. Breaking his opponent twice, saving a break point on his own serve, the Swiss ran away with the second set 6-1. With 87% of first serve points won, the world number three was in total command.
In the third set, things did turn in Ruud's favour when Federer played an error-strewn game and lost his serve. But the young Ruud failed to consolidate the break. With due respect to the service clock that keeps the players on their toes, maybe the Norwegian should have taken his time between points.
Maybe Ruud, a self-proclaimed Nadal fan, lacked that variety -- the occasional drop shot or a sudden approach to the net which might have been unsettling for the 20-time Grand Slam champion, a variety which his favourite tennis player Nadal has developed on the tour himself, over the years. Federer's all-round ability allowed Ruud to neither recover nor take his chances in the match.
As it turned out, the 64-minute third set had to be decided by a tie-break. Both players conceded mini-breaks and got back on track, on serve. Three cracking forehands by Ruud erased as many match points for Federer.
But the young Norwegian double-faulted to gift Federer his 4th match point which the Swiss maestro converted with a forehand smash. Federer conquered his young challenger 6-3, 6-1, 7-6(8) in just over 2 hours on Suzanne-Lenglen Court to advance to the Round of 16.
Federer’s movement and court position were simply excellent throughout the encounter. If the Swiss peaks at the right time playing his own brand of claycourt tennis, he might as well be a threat as the tournament heads to the second week.Published 31 May 2019, 23:02 IST