A guide to Federer’s collapses on match points

Jun 12 13 min read

1:08 pm

Roger Federer Indian Wells on Flickr by Paschka Boronsov under CC2.0  

Roger Federer returns to the circuit at the 2018 Mercedes Cup after missing the clay season for the second consecutive season. But before the clay season commenced, the Swiss Maestro’s season ended with two heavy losses. He was the defending champion at Indian Wells and Miami and managed to reach the final of the former in his title defense, but failed to convert Championship points before going on to lose. At Miami, Federer was defeated by young Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis in a third set tie-break.

It was the defeat at Indian Wells that was painful and surprising to most spectators. Federer’s long list of accolades are worthy enough to prove him as the legend of the game but his career has not come without the occasional hiccup. The Swiss Maestro has won 97 career titles. However, those stellar numbers could have been even better had Federer converted match points in any of 19 matches below.

1) Tim Henman vs Roger Federer - 2000 - Vienna Open Semi-finals

It appeared that a young 18-year old Swiss was all set to reach his second tour level final. Leading 6-2 6-5, Federer had a chance to close out the match on two instances on Henman’s serve. However, the sixth seeded Brit saved the first match point with a strong first serve. On the second match point, a half volley at the net gave Henman a new life in the match. Henman would go on to win the tournament, defeating wild card entrant Tommy Haas in the finals.

2) Patrick Rafter vs Roger Federer - 2001 - Halle Quarter-finals

In his second appearance at Halle, Federer defeated the defending champion David Prinosil in the second round. In the quarter-finals, he faced second seeded Patrick Rafter, who trailed the Swiss 6-4 6-5 and was down a match point. However, the Australian landed a blazing first serve to save the match point. Rafter eventually took the set 8-6 in the tie-break. In the decider, the duo yet again contested a tie-break and Rafter won it 7-4.

3) Tommy Haas vs Roger Federer - 2002 - Australian Open Round of 16

Federer had reached the Round of 16 at the Australian Open for the first time in his career. The Swiss was the 11th seed in the tournament and was facing seventh seeded Tommy Haas in the fourth round. Federer took a lead of 2-1 after dropping the first set in a tie-break. However, the German bounced back and took the fourth set 6-4, forcing a decider. In the decider, at 6-5, Federer had a match point after Haas hit an overzealous mid-court forehand outside the baseline. The next point saw a backhand slice error from Federer that landed in the net which took the game to deuce. Haas eventually took the final set and the match 8-6.

4) Albert Costa vs Roger Federer - 2003 - Miami Open Quarter-finals

Federer was the defending finalist at the NASDAQ-100 Open, now known as the Miami Masters. Seeded fourth, the Swiss faced ninth seeded Albert Costa in the quarter-finals. Federer and Costa shared the first two sets and in the decider Federer was serving for the match at 5-4. From 40-30 onwards, Federer did everything that a player should not do while having a match point. A forced backhand error resulted in a deuce and Costa was given his first opportunity. However, in the next point, Federer approached the net to land an easy shot in no man’s land and gave himself a second opportunity to close the match. This time, Federer hit an unforced error off his forehand side. A backhand error and a double fault helped Costa get back on serve and force a tiebreak. Federer, yet again had a match point at 6-5 on Costa’s serve. The Swiss struck the net attempting a cross court forehand winner and four points later, Costa took the tie-break and the match 9-7.

5) Marat Safin vs Roger Federer - 2005 Australian Open Semi-finals

Federer was on a 26-match winning streak and it looked as if the top seed would have no trouble defending his 2004 Australian Open crown. After defeating Andre Agassi in straight sets in the quarter-finals, Federer set up an eighth clash against Safin. Safin had been successful in beating Federer only once before, which was in 2002 at Moscow. In the semi-finals of the 2005 Australian Open, Federer took a comfortable lead at 2-1 and had a match point in the fourth set tie-break leading 6-5. Serving for the match, Federer’s second serve was a nice kick serve resulting in a sloppy return from Safin. Federer was swift to approach the net and went for a winner but Safin reached for the ball and Federer tried yet another volley to finish off the match but Safin lobbed the ball just a few inches inside the baseline. Federer’s tweener landed in the net and Safin eventually took the fourth set 7-6(6) forcing a decider. In the decider, Federer lost 9-7. This was the second and the last time that Safin defeated in their 12-match long rivalry.

6) Richard Gasquet vs Roger Federer - 2005 Monte Carlos Masters Quarter-finals

Qualifier Richard Gasquet was meeting the then World No.1 Roger Federer for the first time in his career. Gasquet was blown away 7-1 in the opening set tie-break but the Frenchman took the next set 6-2. In the decider, both men held their serves to settle the match in a tie-break. At 6-5, Federer had his first match point but Gasquet saved it with an accurate first serve. At 7-6 and 8-7 Federer had two more opportunities to move into the semi-finals but he failed to convert. Gasquet’s next victory against Federer would come six years later at the Rome Masters. Today, Federer leads their head to head 17-2.

7) Rafael Nadal vs Roger Federer - 2006 Rome Masters Final

In the second of the four finals that Federer reached at Rome, the Swiss was facing defending champion Rafa Nadal. Playing best-of-five sets,Federer would share the first four sets with his arch nemesis. In the fifth set, at 6-5, Federer hit two unforced errors off his forehand and after five hours of match time, the Spaniard emerged triumphant. At this stage in their career, Federer and Nadal were ranked World No.1 and 2 but the Spaniard would take a 5-1 lead in their head to head meetings.

8) Marco Baghdatis vs Roger Federer - 2010 Indian Wells R3

Baghdatis had lost all six meetings against Federer and was now set to face him again at the 2010 Indian Wells. Federer took the opening set 7-5 and had two match points on Baghdatis’ serve. Baghdatis trailed 15-40 but Federer hit consecutive unforced errors to get the scoreboard to a deuce. Baghdatis would hold and take the set 7-5 to force a decider. Federer broke in the decider in the fourth game but the Cypriot broke back to get back on serve. In the 12th game of the set, Federer had yet another match point but failed to hit a backhand winner down the line. Baghdatis would win 7-4 in the tie-break and defeat Federer for the first time in his career.

9) Tomas Berdych vs Roger Federer - 2010 Miami Masters R4

Sixteenth seed Tomas Berdych faced top seed Roger Federer in the fourth round. Federer led their head to head 8-1 with Berdych’s lone victory coming in 2004 at the Olympics. Berdych won the first set and Federer took the second. In the third set tie-break, Federer had a match point at 6-5, which the Czech disposed of after hitting a simple forehand winner. Berdych won the tiebreak 8-6, registering his first tour level victory over Federer. This was the first time when Federer would lose two consecutive matches wherein he had a match point on both occasions.

10) Novak Djokovic vs Roger Federer - 2010 US Open Semi-finals

Federer and Djokovic were seeded No.2 and 3 respectively for the 2010 US Open. The two met in the semi-finals and both took the first four sets alternatively. Djokovic was serving at 4-5 in the decider and Federer took a lead in the game to set up two match points. However, the Serb hit three rampant winners to level up the match 5-5 in the decider. It felt as if a final set tie-break would settle the battle at the Flushing Meadows. But serving at 5-5, Federer’s serve was broken and the Serb had a chance to finish of the match. The Swiss fought back, handing himself a chance to break Djokovic’s serve but produced an unforced error. Djokovic would eventually hold to win the match 5-7 6-1 5-7 6-2 7-5.

11) Gael Monfils vs Roger Federer - 2010 Paris Masters Semi-finals

Gael Monfils was the local hero and was fighting the World No.1 in a Masters event. Monfils took the first set 7-6(7) but Federer responded strongly taking the second 7-6(1). The Swiss took an early lead of 3-0 in the decider but Monfils powered back to level the match at 4-4. At 6-5, Federer had five match points but Monfils valiantly brushed them off and forced yet another tie-break. The Frenchman would win it 7-4 and cruise to his second consecutive final at the Paris Masters.

12) Novak Djokovic vs Roger Federer - 2011 US Open Semi-finals

A year after Federer squandered two match points against Djokovic, he found himself at the same stage against a similar opponent and a similar venue. This time though, Federer had the cushion of the first two sets, which he won 7-6 6-4. The Serb would fight back taking the next two and forced a decider. In the fifth set, Federer had two chances to reach the finals of the 2011 US Open. At 5-3 Federer had his first match point, which was saved by Djokovic with an impressive forehand return. A forehand error from Federer would yet again rob Federer of an opportunity to finish the match despite having multiple match points. Djokovic would win his maiden title at US Open that year.

13) Tomas Berdych vs Roger Federer - 2013 Dubai Open Semi-finals

Seeded second, Federer would face Berdych in the semi-finals of the Dubai Open. The Swiss Maestro took the first set and had three opportunities to close out the match in the second set tie-break. The Czech yet again saved match points against Federer and won the set 7-6(8). Berdych would win the final set 6-4. This was the last time Berdych defeated Federer in their rivalry. Federer won their next nine matches in a row and currently leads their head to head 20-6.

14) Jeremy Chardy vs Roger Federer - 2014 Rome Masters R2

Seeded fourth, Chardy was handed a breadstick by Federer in their second round encounter at the Rome Masters in 2014. Chardy fought back to take the second set 6-3. In the decider set tie-breaker, Federer had a match point at 6-5 but Chardy hit a well executed forehand passing shot and saved a match point. The Frenchman won the tiebreak 8-6 and levelled his head to head with Federer 1-1. Federer now leads their head to head 4-1.

15) Nick Kyrgios vs Roger Federer - 2015 Madrid Masters R2

Federer was back as the top seed in Madrid and faced young Nick Kyrgios in the second round. The match saw three sets ending in tie-breaks and was one of the most thrilling matches of the clay season. Federer took the first set tiebreaker 7-2 whereas Kyrgios took the next 7-5. The final set tie-break saw 26 points being played between the two and it was eventually Kyrgios who would win 14-12, saving two match points in the process.

16) Dominic Thiem vs Roger Federer - 2016 Stuttgart Open Semi-finals

This was Federer’s first appearance at the Stuttgart Open, which changed its playing surface to grass after initially being contested on clay up until 2014. Federer reached the semis and was set to face third seed Dominic Thiem for the third time in the year after having faced him initially on hard and clay turf. While Federer won against Thiem on the hard turf of Brisbane, the young Austrian exerted his revenge at the Rome Masters played on clay. Federer took the first 6-3 and had two match points in the second set tie-break. Federer committed a bizarre error in executing a relatively easy overhead backhand from the net, landing it into the net thereby giving up his first match point. A failed serve and volley tactic from Thiem gave Federer another opportunity to win the match. But Thiem resisted with a sublime backhand crosscourt passing shot. Federer lost the tiebreak 9-7 and Thiem took the decider 6-4. Thiem still leads their head to head 2-1.

17) Evgeny Donskoy vs Roger Federer - 2017 Dubai Open R2

2017 was Federer’s comeback year after a six month hiatus and the Maestro came into the Dubai Open after winning the Australian Open. Federer was up against Evgeny Donskoy who was downed 6-3 in the opener. In the second set, Federer had three match points but each of them were saved by the young Russian who later forced a decider. Donskoy finished of proceedings with a 7-5 win in the third set tie-break. This was one of the five defeats that Federer faced in 2017.

18) Tommy Haas vs Roger Federer - 2017 Stuttgart Open R2

Fifteen years after Haas saved a match point against Federer to reach the quarter-finals of the Australian Open, the German repeated the feat in front of his home crowd. The head to head record was now pretty lopsided in Federer’s favor, leading 13-3. Haas dropped the first set 6-2. In the second set tie-break, Federer had a match point at 8-7. The Swiss hit a backhand that was long and Haas took the second set after Federer produced an uncharacteristic double fault at 8-9. Haas took the final set 6-4 and it was the German’s last win on the professional circuit after which he called it a day.

19) Juan Martin Del Potro vs Roger Federer - 2018 Indian Wells Final

Federer was the defending champion at Indian Wells and managed to reach the final with Juan Martin Del Potro at the other side of the net. In a match that was filled with outbursts coming from both players, Federer levelled after coming back from a set and a break down. In the decider, Federer broke Del Potro at 5-4 to serve for the Championship. Federer quickly raced to a 40-15 lead giving him two championship points. The Tower of Tandil retaliated after hitting a forehand winner followed by an easy passing shot and eventually breaking back with a forehand winner. In the deciding set tie-break, Federer piled on errors from his blade and lost the tiebreak 7-2.