Wimbledon 2018: A Trial by Service for Kevin Anderson and Roger Federer
Kevin Anderson played at a level I had not seen from him before yesterday. Roger Federer played at a level I had not seen from him in a long time.
The first 2 sets were nothing new for Roger, apart from the fact that he got broken once in the 2nd. He won them both quite comfortably, and was looking likely to coast through.
Like the match before, Anderson's ball striking only got better as the match progressed, but that was nothing that the Swiss master couldn't handle. But, there was something different in Federer's game, a chink in his armour, a completely new one at that.
The forehand which has won him many key points, let him down this time with way too many unforced errors, especially in the 4th set, which proved to be the momentum Anderson needed. I had seen him hold his shoulder a few times through the 1-and-a-half weeks, but seeing what Roger had to say after the match, I don't think that affected his shot-making. He had an average day, when he simply couldn't afford to. This was partly because of how well his opponent upped his game yesterday.
Kevin Anderson started the match in a similar fashion as to his previous encounters with Roger Federer. He couldn't start well and was dominated by the mastery of the 'King of Grass', losing the set 2-6.
But it was evident that this match wouldn't be the same as their last 4 clashes (Federer had won in straight sets) when the lanky South African broke Federer's serve in the 2nd set. Although he lost the tie-breaker, the break of serve was what he exactly needed to calm himself down and it was only up from then.
The 3rd set was when Anderson needed the calmness the most, facing three break points and even a match point. But he warded them off with a lot of composure and some accurate serving. He got the next set, thanks to Federer's slew of forehand unforced errors and the solidity showed by himself.
Both Federer and Anderson had to improve their games to win the match. The former had to find accuracy of the forehand and the latter had to fight off all the experience of his opponent.
The South African was the one who was constantly under pressure on his serve as he was serving behind. Federer's forehand was a bit more reliable and touches of genius were drizzled upon the ball.
But somewhere in the set, it changed. The South African found an untapped gear and started to hold serve comfortably. Suddenly it was Federer's serve that was under a mountain of pressure.
As the set went on and on, tiredness set on the 8-time Wimbledon champion and finally at 11-11, there was a break of serve. The ghost of the 4th set which was almost non-existent at the start of the 5th, returned.
Forehand unforced errors to start and finish the game with a double fault at 30-30 proved costly for the Swiss. Serving for the match against such a great player like Federer is never easy. Overflowing emotions and nerves make it very difficult to concentrate on the job at hand.
But Kevin Anderson showed nothing of that kind, breezing through the game in under 2 minutes with an ace to go without any error.
Roger Federer and Kevin Anderson played at a different level from usual. But one played in a level below and the other, a level above.