LiveAnalysis: Roger Federer vs Jerzy Janowicz in the Rome Quarterfinals
By Juan José on May 17, 2013
Welcome to another installment of LiveAnalysis! Today’s match-up is quite unique: Roger Federer will be playing Jerzy Janowicz, a man almost 10 years his junior, for the first time.
The World No. 3 has been blazing through the Rome draw after the disappointment of his early loss to Kei Nishikori in Madrid. To reach this match, Federer has dispatched Italian journeyman Potito Starace (who is ranked outside of the top 200 and was playing in his first ATP main draw of the year) and Gilles Simon, who has never been past the Round of 16 at this event. Federer made quick work out of both of those gentlemen, and he will have plenty of gas in the tank ahead of today’s intriguing match.
Jerzy Janowicz has been able to summon the kind of form that saw him reach the Paris Masters final last year, as he has taken down two top 10 foes in a row in Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet. Though Tsonga seemed to be struggling with something (Jo seemed to play the entire match without his first serve), Gasquet seemed to be en route to his second win over the young Pole in 2013 (Richard had soundly defeated Jerzy at Indian Wells a few months ago). Janowicz, however, had other plans: helped by a terrible line call by Mohamed El Jennati, Jerzy found another gear and turned the match around just when it seemed like a hopeless cause.
What has been striking in Janowicz’s run is just how comfortable he seems to feel on the clay. No wonder he was the Roland Garros junior runner-up a few years ago. Jerzy slides on the surface with ease, and every part of his game seems to work perfectly well on the red stuff, including those wonderfully insane drop shots.
As I mentioned above, this will be the first meeting between the two men. Federer will be playing someone who is arguably two tennis generations behind him, something that hasn’t seemed to bother him much: his only loss against someone within Janowicz’s age group came precisely last week in his upset loss to Nishikori.
Four Things to Watch For:
1. Who will be able to put more pressure on each other’s serve? Janowicz and Federer have extremely good serves. One difference between the two on returns is how aggressively Janowicz returns second serves: the Pole stands smack on the baseline to return that kind of delivery, and he is able to send piercing returns off both wings. Federer, as we all know, likes to slice back his second serve returns, preferring a more passive approach. I don’t expect either man to make inroads in each other’s first serves, but I do wonder who will get an edge on those valuable second serve points.
2. Will Janowicz be able to get consistent depth on his backhand side, as well as minimize the unforced errors off that wing? This is absolutely vital for Janowicz. Nobody punishes short balls quite like the Big Four do, and Janowicz will get his first taste of that tonight. It should be said that when Janowicz’s backhand is humming, it’s a deadly shot. Jerzy has no qualms about using all his options off that wing: thundering down-the-line missiles flow right after a delicate dropper or a deep slice. But when that backhand is not humming, the ball often drops short with no pace. And yes, into the net or out of the court.
3. Who will win the forehand exchanges? Janowicz’s go-to shot is the cross-court forehand, and Federer loves to hit his all-time great forehand from that corner, too. Janowicz will have to mix up his approaches and put-aways, because Federer is absolutely deadly when he has time to set up for that shot on the Deuce court.
4. Who will hit more drop shots? If I had a wish list for this match, it would include one and only one item: that Janowicz hits one of his audacious second serve return droppers, followed by a camera close-up of Federer’s face. Joking aside, both men love their droppers – Federer was apparently dropper-happy against Simon, while Janowicz is dropper-happy every single time he steps on a tennis court. The clay favors this kind of shot, so it will be interesting to see who gets the better of these exchanges.
Remember to refresh this page often, as I will be providing game-by-game updates throughout the match!
As in previous LiveAnalysis posts, I’ll be using a bit of “tennis shorthand” today. Here’s your glossary:
BP: Break Point
DTL: Down the line (means the same as “up the line”)
GP: Game Point
SP: Set Point
UFE: Unforced Error
The men are on court, and Centrale is buzzing. We’ll be starting soon!
First Set – Roger Federer Will Serve First.
0-0: Federer starts the proceedings with one of his favorite serves: the slider out wide from the Deuce court. Ace, 15-0. The net gets in the way of Federer’s FH in the next point, so it’s 15-all. SW, 30-15. Return dropper by Janowicz!!! But it lands wide. 40-15. Janowicz has a look at a short FH, but sends it into the net after a fun rally. A comfortable and quick hold for Federer.
1-0, Federer: Janowicz starts with a beauty of a dropper and lob combo, and puts away the resulting volley. Fantastic start for the young Pole. Then, a BH DTL goes long for Jerzy. 15-all. SW for Janowicz, 30-15. An unlucky DF, and it’s 30-all. A carbon copy of the earlier SW – a 233 kph bomb, and it’s GP. Federer shanks a FH after a good Janowicz CC FH, and the Pole has held.
Janowicz is here to play, it seems. He’s hitting the ball with gusto, and the droppers have already made an appearance. This should be fun.
1-1: Federer nets a FH, then Janowicz barely misses on a BH return. 15-all, and then Federer puts away a very short return for 30-15. A glorious BH return by Janowicz forces Federer’s error after a quick exchange, and it’s 30-all. Then, Federer approaches to Janowicz’s BH (not a bad idea), but Jerzy passes him with ease. First BP of the match for Jerzy. SW for Federer, deuce number one. After a nice rally in which Federer seemed to have control of things, Janowicz fires a BH DTL, forcing Federer’s error. BP number two for Janowicz, which is wiped away by an Ace up the T by Federer. Smack on the tape. Janowicz then goes for an impossible FH DTL winner from well outside the court, and doesn’t come close to getting it in. AD-Federer, but it’s deuce number three, after a glorious BH dropper by Janowicz. Amazing shot. Janowicz puts pressure on Federer with his CC FH, but then misses a DTL FH. AD-Federer, and an Ace up the T ends the game.
Janowicz is returning far better than I expected: seems to be reading Federer’s serve quite well. The Swiss had to come up with some special stuff to fend off the break points. This could be a lot of fun if both guys keep this up.
2-1, Federer: Janowicz gets over-eager with a CC BH after a short return, and nets it. 0-15. Ace up the T, 15-all. Janowicz makes no mistake with another put-away BH, and it’s 30-15. SW, and it’s 40-15. Federer out-maneuvers Janowicz with his CC FH, and finishes with his trademark FH DTL. 40-30. Nice, simple play from Federer. Janowicz approaches the net after a short return, Federer gets a look at a FH pass, but barely misses wide. A nice hold for Janowicz.
You would not guess that this is Janowicz’s first ever Rome QF. The man is acting like he belongs at this stage.
2-2: Federer gets a look at two FHs, and forces two consecutive Janowicz lunges. 30-0. Ace up the T, 40-0. Now a Federer FH sails long, but it’s still 40-15. Janowicz goes for a big FH DTL return winner, but misses wide. Easy hold for Federer – a little over a minute and a half.
Federer had all first serves in that game – he’s serving at 82% first serves for the match, which is a great number for him (and problematic for Janowicz). However, Janowicz has lost fewer points on serve: four to Federer’s seven, albeit in one fewer service game.
3-2, Federer: Janowicz unleashes an ill-advised dropper, Federer is all over it, and goes right into Jerzy’s body with his reply. The Pole got a racquet on it, but the ball sails wide. A SW makes it 15-all, and a blistering CC BH brings us to 30-15. SW, and it’s 40-15. Rinse and repeat, and Jerzy has held.
3-3: Federer opens with an ace up the T, but Janowicz takes the next point after somehow getting a great pass in after looking completely off balance. 15-all. Janowicz gets a chance to put pressure on Federer, but misses on a FH DTL. Federer seems to be going body with all his second serves. Ace up the T, and it’s 40-15. Janowicz has not read that serve yet. That’s followed by an ace out wide, which is conceded by Janowicz after the line judge called it out.
This next game should be interesting, as we enter the business end of the set, as they say. The margin for error narrows dramatically.
4-3, Federer: SW up the T, 15-0. They just showed a graph that illustrated how much faster Janowicz’s average first serve speed was: almost 30 kph faster. The difference in second serve speed? about 20 kph. While I typed that, Janowicz sent two bombs Federer’s way, and both went unreturned. 40-0, in a flash. DF, 40-15. A forceful exchange from the middle of the court ends with a Janowicz BH DTL into the net. 40-30. But then, a gorgeous FH dropper goes for a winner after a short Federer BH slice return.
4-4: Federer approaches on Janowicz’s BH, and the Pole nets the pass. Then the Pole nets an I-O FH. Janowicz blasts a return straight at Federer, but the Swiss masterfully half-volleys it, and a confused Janowicz dumps a BH into the net. 40-0, and Federer holds after he puts away a simple FH after a short Janowicz return.
STATS UPDATE: After five Federer service games, the Swiss is still serving 81% first serves. That’s very, very high. Janowicz has only gotten a look at six Federer second serves, and lost four out of those points anyway.
It seems like Federer is serving better and better as the match wears on. Though in that last game, Janowicz did blast two great returns right at the Swiss – Jerzy couldn’t deal with the next shot very well, though.
5-4, Federer: Janowicz sends another BH DTL into the net, and it’s 15-all. Then Janowicz sends a CC BH into the net after Federer dealt well with a blistering CC FH. Federer then blocks a first serve perfectly … but sends the next FH well long. Second serve at 30-all. Janowicz survives a great I-I FH by Federer, but then gets too excited to pummel a CC FH, and it ends up … in the net. BP (and Set Point) number one for Federer. Janowicz goes for the second ball dropper, Federer tracks it down comfortably, and Federer breaks, after having just a single BP.
That was a “welcome to the big leagues, Jerzy” moment. Janowicz made some silly errors, chose the wrong shot on break point … and that was that.
At the top of the game, the margins are that small.
First Set to Roger Federer, 6-4.
Here are your First Set stats:
Second Set – Roger Federer Will Serve First.
0-0: Janowicz blasts a BH DTL for 15-30, and then a blistering return that forces Federer’s error. 15-40. BPs immediately, and Janowicz breaks serve with an absolute scorcher of a FH DTL return winner!
That … was as unexpected as it was violent. And here’s an interesting graph:
As you can see, Janowicz has to find a way to push Federer back: the Swiss will make quick work of you if he’s allowed to hit one out of three shots from inside the baseline.
1-0, Janowicz: Federer gets a look at a FH pass, and guides it perfectly DTL. 15-30, but it’s 30-all after a SW. Then, a short return ends with an easy smash for Janowicz. 40-30. The break is consolidated with an insane second serve up the T that Federer can barely get a racquet on.
2-0, Janowicz: Federer goes up 40-15 after Janowicz narrowly misses on an impossible running FH pass. Then Janowicz has a look at a simple BH volley to put away a point … and misses it well wide. A welcome hold for Federer.
2-1, Janowicz: A SW makes it 15-0, but a failed FH dropper ties it up at 15-all. SW on a second serve, 30-15. Janowicz goes for a super low-percentage I-I FH from an awkward angle, and nets it. 30-all. Janowicz goes for a second ball FH dropper again, but this time, it works: Jerzy calmly puts away Federer’s counter dropper. 40-30. Janowicz holds after tracking back a tricky FH slice by Federer.
3-1, Janowicz: Janowicz almost tracks back a Federer smash, but can’t get it over the net. Ace out wide, 30-0. A good CC BH by Federer forces Janowicz’s error, and it’s 40-0. A beauty of a kicker by Federer yanks Janowicz completely out of the court, and a FH put-away finishes a very easy service game.
Janowicz is in the same situation as he was in the third set of the Gasquet match: yesterday he broke to start the set, and had to hold serve until the very end. Same challenge here, with the added difficulty of the opposition, naturally.
3-2, Janowicz: Two blistering FHs make it 30-0 for Janowicz. second serve SW, 40-0. A simple put-away after a floater of a Federer return, and Janowicz responds with his own quick and easy service game.
STATS UPDATE: Up to 3-2 in the second set, Federer had won 12 more baseline points than Janowicz. Both men had committed seven FH UFEs, but Janowicz leads comfortably in the BH UFE category, six to nothing.
4-2, Janowicz: In the blink of an eye, Federer holds at love. Anything you can do, I can do better, perhaps?
4-3, Janowicz: Ace up the T, SW up the T. 30-0 for Jerzy. Ace up the T again, 40-0. Janowicz is dominating on serve now. A glorious I-I spinning FH later, and Janowicz holds to love yet again.
5-3, Janowicz: Ace up the T, 15-0. SW up the T, 30-0. Federer is following the same pattern as Janowicz! Jerzy gets a deep BH return in, and forces the error. 30-15. Federer puts away a tricky smash after a net foray, and it’s 40-15. Then a wild I-O FH UFE by Federer, and it’s 40-30. First competitive service game we’ve had in a while … and it ends with a Federer second ball smash.
Absolute crunch time for Janowicz. Hold here, and we’re off to a decider.
5-4, Janowicz: Janowicz gets a look at a second ball FH, but nets it. 0-15. But then a beauty of a second ball I-O FH putaway from a tricky position on the court. 15-all. Janowicz leaves a ball hanging in the middle of the court, Federer pounces with his FH, and it’s 15-30. Danger for Janowicz here. SW out wide, and it’s 30-all. Then, my favorite Janowicz serve: the wicked slider out wide. Ace, and SP for Janowicz. Jerzy goes for a FH dropper after Federer drops a FH short … and it’s deuce number one. Second serve – and a horrible, horrible DF. Third of the match, at the worst possible moment. BP for Federer. The Swiss masterfully blocks the return deep … and Janowicz unleashes a MISSILE CC FH winner. Amazing shot, at an amazing time. Deuce number two. Then, a CC FH UFE. BP number two for Federer. Ace up the T, and we’re at Deuce number three. That’s called “coming up with the goods.” Of course, Janowicz makes me look like an idiot, as he DFs yet again. Fourth of the match, second of the game. BP number three for Federer. second serve, and Federer plays a wonderful dropper that Jerzy tracks back … but is well out of position to deal with Federer’s reply. Federer gets the break back!
Those double faults will haunt Janowicz tonight … unless he finds a way to win this match.
5-5: Two very bad returns make it 30-0 for Federer, who then sends a second ball FH wide. 30-15. Then, a BH UFE by Janowicz, and it’s 40-15. Another Federer FH UFE, and it’s 40-30, but an Ace comes to the rescue to clinch the hold.
Tough couple of games for Janowicz, who kept digging himself holes in that 5-4 game. As he’s been wont to do in the past few months, he finds it difficult to survive those horrible service games of his. So far in this match, he’s gotten broken both times he’s struggled on serve.
6-5, Federer: Federer puts on the pressure immediately with a FH DTL return winner. Then Janowicz comes up with an INSANE half-volley winner. That ball was so, so low. 15-all. But that’s erased by a simple FH from the middle of the court that ends up in the net. 15-30. And another FH UFE from the middle of the court, this time long. 15-40, double MP for Federer. The wheels seem to have come off the Jerzy Train. First MP is saved by an ace up the T. 30-40, MP number two. Then, Federer dumps a second serve into the net. Deuce number one. A nice CC FH approach ends with a simple BH put-away volley. AD-Janowicz. Rinse and repeat, albeit without need of the volley, as Federer sends his pass long. TIEBREAK CITY!
TIEBREAKER – Roger Federer Will Serve First.
0-0: Second serve, and after a tentative exchange, Federer sends a FH well long. Bad UFE and MINIBREAK.
1-0, Janowicz: Federer gets a nice deep return in play, and puts away a short FH. MINIBREAK.
1-1: Federer gets an unbelievable return smack on the baseline, and Janowicz thought it was landing out. MINIBREAK
2-1, Federer: SW up the T.
3-1, Federer: SW out wide.
4-1, Federer: Rally of the match! Janowicz has to hit endless volleys, but he somehow survives.
4-2, Federer: Federer eats up Janowicz’s second serve with his FH, and moments later puts away a short FH. MINIBREAK.
5-2, Federer: Janowicz gets a chance at a pass … but nets it with his BH. Quadruple MP for Federer.
6-2, Federer: Second serve – and Janowicz buries a BH into the net after two shots.
Game, Set, and Match to Roger Federer, 6-4, 7-6 (2).
Here are your full match stats:
Roger Federer had a simply impeccable serving performance today. Serving 76% first serves is incredible, and it gets even better if you add the 11 aces and zero double faults to that feat. Federer wound up winning 72% of points played on his first serve (36/50) and 75% of second serve points (12/16). Just look at that last line for a bit: 50 out of 66 points played on Federer’s serve were played on that deadly first delivery. That’s quite the challenge for a youngster like Jerzy Janowicz.
Or anybody, really.
Regardless, Jerzy did manage to play two great return games: the Pole had two break points in the third game of the third set, but Federer erased them with that great serve of his. Then, right after losing the first set in such a disappointing way, Janowicz did manage to break Federer’s serve (the only time that’s happened this week).
As I wrote at the beginning of this post, Roger Federer has traditionally done well against young up-and-comers (notable exceptions are Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray). Federer has also done well against big servers: he’s the master of the first serve blocked return, something Roddick fans remember all too well.
I thought Federer had a great day with his return of serve. You’ll look at the numbers and ask if I’ve been smoking something: Janowicz ended up winning 67% of his first serve points and 62% of second serve points. I’d love to watch the match again and do a return of serve analysis like the one I did for Nadal against Gulbis, but it just seemed to me like Federer got really good reads on Janowicz’s second serve, and got his fair share of deep first serve returns back – particularly in the key game of the match.
After facing someone who’d never made it to the Rome quarters, Federer will now meet a man who’s never made it this far in any Masters 1000. Benoit Paire is full of talent, but you can be sure Federer will make his experience count in that semifinal.
Now, about Jerzy Janowicz. Today was yet another example of something that I’ve been thinking for the past few weeks: Janowicz is truly going to blossom … next year. I know I was quick to say that I thought Jerzy would even make the top 10 at the end of 2013, but I’ve lowered my expectations significantly. The reason is simple: he’s too inexperienced.
Jerzy Janowicz played his 59th ATP main draw match today. 59! That’s nothing! Fellow 22-year-old Grigor Dimitrov has played 129. Ryan Harrison, who is a year younger, has played 108 tour-level matches.
With that being said, I am very sure that Janowicz will end the 2014 ATP season in the top 10. Like I wrote after his Paris run, there’s simply too much talent there for him not to be that high. His serve will only get better (and it’s already spectacular), his forehand is deadly, he has very good transition instincts, and he possesses incredible feel for those droppers. Jerzy’s movement around the court is simply uncanny (borderline unfair, if you ask me). More than that, Janowicz seems to relish the spotlight and the big matches. He carries himself like he belongs, and that’s not common.
Now, a lot of this talent still has to be polished. The backhand is a key element in his game (he’s fearless with it), but it’ll continue to be the target of most tour pros, since it’s the side most prone to breaking down unprompted. The shot selection is still a work in progress, and in Janowicz’s case this comes with the added difficulty that he has more than a few options to juggle. Janowicz’s court position is still suspect: he gets caught in awkward places more often than he should.
All of the above will improve with experience. I wrote somewhere that it’s probably best to imagine Janowicz as Novak Djokovic in 2006. Yes, Djokovic was much younger then, but in terms of where they are in the ATP world, I think there at a similar place (Janowicz’s crazy Paris run notwithstanding). Hence, Janowicz’s goal for the year should be to play as many ATP matches as he can, live the grind of the tour, and take his chances where he has them. It would be great if he can win his first title somewhere (I’m hoping Janowicz ends up playing the mini clay season that takes place post-Wimbledon). But that should be it: play a lot, learn a lot, and maybe get a title.
Janowicz also reminds me of what happened with Kei Nishikori, as I wrote here. Kei had a wonderful run to the title at Delray Beach in 2008. He was 18 years old, and that run clearly came ahead of schedule. Same for Janowicz’s fun-as-hell run to the Paris Masters final last year.
Today Janowicz got handed a nice lesson in a key topic: what it takes to beat the elite. As in, having silly service games will always cost you against the top players in the world. Janowicz showed his inexperience in that 4-5 game in the first set and the 5-4 game of the second set. He lost his cool, chose the wrong shots, and everything in his game got derailed just enough for Federer to make him pay. And Janowicz paid dearly: a very even first set was over in the blink of an eye, and a second set that Janowicz should have won was suddenly back on serve.
Being a pro on tour is not about the meteoric rise, as much as a slow and never-ending quest to improve. And nothing drives the lessons home better than matches like the one Janowicz lived through tonight.
Federer is an unforgiving, impeccable teacher. And at this point in Janowicz’s career, it’s all about learning and improving. It will be fascinating to see how the fearless young Pole fares in the next time these two men meet. Let’s hope they do, and soon.