Federer claws into Stockholm Open semis

Crowd-pleaser Roger Federer staged a heroic recovery from a set and a break down against compatriot Stanislas Wawrinka to reach the semifinals of the Stockholm Open as home favourite Robin Söderling crashed out.

Federer claws into Stockholm Open semis

Hopes of a potential elite final between the tournament’s top two evaporated as Söderling fell against German outsider Florian Mayer 7-6 (10-8), 6-1.

Federer’s patchy game in the first set was unrecognisable from the powerhouse comeback which suddenly snapped into place as he trailed a set and 0-2 and which carried him to a 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory in just under two hours.

“It was looking pretty bad,” said Federer. “Stan was looking really good. Things were going quickly for me, I had no timing and was shanking balls.”

He added, “He was dominating, it was tough for me to stay in it. But I tried, I got lucky and all of a sudden I was back in the match. I fought my way out of this and I’m excited to be in the semis.”

Mayer, ranked 47th in the world, was stunned by his success over Söderling and at reaching a second season semi.

“It was unbelievable to beat a top 10 player at home, indoors on his favourite surface. In the first set I had no chance on his serve, he could have won it 6-4. But after I won the tiebreak, I could see that he was mentally broken. I took advantage, the last three games of the match were easy,” he said.

Söderling admitted he lost his way.

“Clearly it’s tough to lose,” he said.

Söderling will have to wait until his next event to qualify for the eight-man season finals in London next month.

A victory over Meyer would have put the Swede into the field alongside Rafael Nadal, Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.

“My timing was not fully there and at the same time, he played very well,” said the two-time Roland Garros finalist. “I didn’t come up to standard today. I was a bit early on my backhand all evening.”

Mayer will next play Finn Jarkko Nieminen, who thrashed two-time champion James Blake 6-0, 6-2 in 49 minutes.

“I’ve had a great run since New York, I’m feeling very confident with my game. I knew it would only be a matter of time. I’m a truthful guy and I say what I mean – I knew that sooner or later things would turn,” said Nieminen.

Federer’s victory gave him his 50th win of the season, the first player to win that many for nine straight years since Pete Sampras completed the feat in 1998.

Federer faces good friend Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia, who made a great escape from a potential fellow Croatian spoiler Ivan Dodig, earning a 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 comeback win.

Ljubicic lost the opening set, but took the second on a double break and went up an early break in the third to finally post his 23rd win of the season against 16 losses.

“I had some chances in the first set which I didn’t manage to take,” said Ljubicic. “But I know Ivan’s game well, and there is nothing that I can do on court that he had not already seen.

“I’m just happy to be in the semi-finals. It will be great to play Roger, as we’ve not played in an official match in two years.”

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Is this the end of the road for Swiss tennis legend Roger Federer?

Roger Federer is talking optimistically about returning to his "highest level" after knee surgery, but does tennis have to start adjusting to a future without the Swiss star?

Is this the end of the road for Swiss tennis legend Roger Federer?
Is it the end of the line for Roger? Photo: Martin BUREAU / AFP

The 20-time Grand Slam winner announced on Wednesday that he would be sidelined until 2021 after his second operation in a matter of months.

Federer remains upbeat, tweeting: “I plan to take the necessary time to be 100 percent ready to play at my highest level.”

In some ways 2020 is a good season to miss after the coronavirus ravaged the tennis schedule. Writing Federer off in the past has proved dangerous.

He returned from a six-month injury lay-off to claim the Australian Open in 2017, winning his eighth Wimbledon crown later that year.

But he will be 40 in 2021 and is now heading into uncharted territory.

Despite his groaning trophy cabinet, there are two factors that will motivate Federer to keep going — the risk of losing his grip on the men's Grand Slam title record and a missing Olympics singles gold medal.

Rafael Nadal has 19 majors, just one shy of Federer's mark and Djokovic has 17.

Spain's Nadal will be fancied to draw level with Federer at the French Open, rescheduled for September, while few would bet against Djokovic winning in New York weeks earlier.

In April, Federer said he was “devastated” when Wimbledon was cancelled for the first time since World War II. Last year he fell agonisingly short at the All England Club, failing to convert two championship points on his own serve against Djokovic.

The Wimbledon grass probably remains his best chance of adding to his Grand Slam collection — he has not won the US Open since 2008 and his only title at Roland Garros came in 2009.

Even though Federer has slipped from the very pinnacle of the game, he is still a major threat to Nadal and Djokovic.

'Golden' ambitions

Last year, the world number four had a 53-10 win-loss record and he reached the semi-finals at the Australian Open in January in his only tournament this year.

Federer, who is still six ATP titles short of Jimmy Connors' all-time record of 109, has one glaring omission from his CV — the Olympic title.

The Swiss won doubles gold in Beijing in 2008 with compatriot Stan Wawrinka but lost in the singles final to Andy Murray in London four years later.

The postponed Tokyo Games will almost certainly be Federer's last opportunity to complete a career “golden” Grand Slam — he will turn 40 on the day of the closing ceremony next year.

Tennis will feel the loss of the elegant Federer keenly when he walks off the court for the last time.

Djokovic and Nadal have been the dominant forces in recent years but the Swiss remains the biggest draw and last month topped Forbes' list of the world's highest-earning athletes.

His last appearance on court was in front of nearly 52,000 fans — touted by organisers as a world record for tennis — at a charity match against Nadal in Cape Town in February.

Federer is nearly always the crowd favourite wherever he plays and has proved a perfect ambassador for the sport since he won his first Grand Slam title in 2003.

He certainly expects to be back and competitive next year.

“I will be missing my fans and the tour dearly but I will look forward to seeing everyone back on tour at the start of the 2021 season,” he tweeted.

The avalanche of support from his adoring fans showed they would miss him too, but they will have to get used to a time when he is gone for good.