Fairly decent analysis posted by ApproachShot in the Fed-Simon thread
Straight Sets - Tennis Blog of The New York Times
January 19, 2011, 5:00 pm
Analysis: How Federer Survived Simon
By GEOFF MACDONALD
After coming back from a two set deficit to force a fifth set, Gilles Simon looked brazenly confident as he outhit Roger Federer from the baseline. He kept the ball deep to Federer’s backhand, and when Federer changed direction and went down the line, the quick Simon laced into a forehand cross-court that moved Federer hard to his right, and also opened up the backhand side again. He had the tactical hook deep in Federer’s side, and the momentum was on his side.
How, then, did Federer escape? It wasn’t any one tactical change, but a series of subtle variations that allowed him to wrest control of the match from Simon and his inspired play. Serving at 1-1 in the fifth set, Federer fell behind, love-30, on his serve. Brad Gilbert calls this point a “hidden ad” for Simon because if he can win one of the next three points he will have a break point.
Federer was on a dangerous precipice here. His response? A great serve wide, and an inside out forehand drop shot that fooled Simon. It was a gutsy, creative shot, and it required a quick grip change — from a semi Western to a continental — and perfect touch. The shot selection signaled a tactical shift in Federer’s game plan, an attempt to mix in touch with his usual power baseline game.
At 15-30, Federer hit a hard slice up the middle for a service winner. Another first serve at 30 all gave him a short ball. The drop shot two points ago forced Simon to play closer to the baseline, and this time Federer ripped an inside out forehand approach that Simon couldn’t touch. He won the game with an ace at the T.
The next critical game came with Simon serving at 2-3. Rather than trade explosive groundstrokes, Federer began to vary spin on his backhand, slicing the ball to slow the point down and force Simon to work harder and play with patience. Federer very subtly shifted the pressure of the match on to Simon. When he finally got a break point, Federer ran down a Simon drop volley, covering the court in four breathtaking strides to flick a forehand down the line past Simon. Once again, this required a shift to a continental grip.
After holding serve to go up, 5-2, Federer quickly moved to love-40 on Simon’s serve. He played two drop shots –one off of each side- to get the first two points. His use of touch had changed Simon’s baseline rhythm, and he moved to triple match point. But Simon hung tough, holding off a net rushing Federer and salvaging the match with a courageous hold.
Here Federer used his main weapon, his serve, to try and put this match away. Federer relied on his favorite serve — the wide slice to the deuce — to maneuver Simon well outside the sideline as he made his return. He quickly moved to match point at 40-30. After a long rally, Federer moved forward to attack a short forehand. Remarkably, he tried the inside out forehand drop shot again. This time the ball caught the tape, hung in the air for a second, and fell back. Deuce.
This point showed Federer’s genius more than any other in the fifth set. He once again went wide on his first serve, but netted it. Now, at deuce, having just lost a match point, Federer prepared to hit his second serve.
The percentages shifted in favor of Simon, who moved forward, looking to take the return early and put Federer on his heels. For the entire match, Federer was only winning 43% of second serve points. In the fifth set, the numbers were even bleaker. Of 11 points on his second serve, Federer had won only 3 of them.
He hit another wide slice to the forehand, with a bit more spin for clearance but with plenty of pace, and Simon hit a good return deep crosscourt. Federer unloaded on a down the line forehand that landed a foot inside the lines. Simon defended well, blocking back a backhand that kept him in the point.
Here Federer burst forward, moving with desire and urgency to close in and volley a backhand angle crosscourt for a winner. With three decisions to play to win – the big second serve, the attacking forehand, and the sprint forward to play a volley- Federer put himself once again at match point. He took intelligent risks to put Simon away. His final service winner was almost anticlimactic.