With no heavy expectations to begin with, on his weakest surface results-wise, Roger Federer seems to be making the best out of the situation at this year’s French Open. After having skipped the tournament for the past three years, Federer has been been playing like he was never away. In his 401st match at a Major, he flew past Leonardo Mayer. This opponent has caused him little trouble in their past meetings. And Federer maintained the status this time around as well. He comfortably beat the Argentine 6-2 6-3 6-3. As a result, he secured a berth in the quarterfinals of the tournament for an astounding 12th time. And this victory also meant that Federer will next contest in his 54th quarterfinal at the majors.
Post a minor injury scare at the Rome Open two weeks ago, the Swiss seems to have picked his form up very well. He is yet to drop a set. Federer showed no signs of weakness as he subdued the challenges Mayer posed for him.
He started out strongly by breaking Mayer in the very first game of the match. Mayer showed some resistance by taking Federer to a deuce in the very next one, but he fended it off. Both players began by playing some solid tennis. But Federer came out as the superior one. He started serving better than Mayer. And he was very precise on his returns too. The seemingly quicker conditions appeared to favor Federer when he broke Mayer again in the fifth game of the set. He consolidated both his break points at the first time of asking and faced none. As a result, Federer grabbed the opening set, 6-2.
Mayer’s motivation levels apparently dipped thereafter. He got broken to love in the first game of the second set too. Federer didn’t let go of this momentum. He backed the break with a love game. He kept playing with great pace and lost very few points on his own serve. The third seed didn’t give Mayer even a single chance to stage a comeback in the second as he took control of match. Mayer didn’t seem to be taking too many risks and was playing reactive tennis. He kept waiting for Federer to commit a mistake. But Federer was playing too well to be troubled. He kept mixing his serve and shots well and won the second set, 6-3.
There was no turning back for Federer then. In the first few games of the third set, Mayer played stronger than he did during the entire match. Even though Federer was serving ahead, Mayer didn’t get broken immediately. He managed to save himself a bigger deficit early on in the set. The Argentine showed sporadic resistance. But it was just not enough. Because Federer was having yet another good day with his Wilson wand on a windy day on the Parisian clay. The Swiss broke Mayer again and led 4-2. He then served out two consecutive love games to seal the deal and win the third set, 6-3.
The 2009 champion seemed unflustered throughout the course of entire match. He racked up great numbers on his serve, won 70% of his points at the net, hit 30 winners and 19 unforced errors (stats via rolandgarros.com). He did not let Mayer face a single break point and won 5/10 break points that he faced. It is safe to say that the 37-year old has still got what it takes to win some matches on clay. The 3-year long hiatus from the surface seems like it didn’t even happen.
He will now face his Swiss compatriot, Stan Wawrinka in the quarterfinals. Wawrinka beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in a marathon five set match which lasted more than 4:30 hours. This will be the 26th meeting between the two. Federer leads the head-to-head 22-3. The most recent win came at this year’s Indian Wells. But all of Wawrinka’s wins have come on clay, the last one being at the exact same stage at 2015 French Open. It will be an interesting battle between the two.
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