Djokovic, Federer Escape!

French Open 2012
By Hiland Doolittle, June 4th, 2012

In an unusual day of men’s tennis, only two matches were completed in the Men’s Draw of the 2012 French Open. As expected, top seeded Novak Djokovic and 3rd seeded Roger Federer advanced to the quarterfinals, scheduled to be played Tuesday. What was not expected was the resistance they encountered from two relatively lightweight competitors. Both matches presented stiff competition and great tenacity from unpredictable sources.

Roger Federer

Roger Federer faced tough challenge from David Goffin

For Djokovic, 22nd seed Italian Andreas Seppi pushed the world’s top ranked player to the brink. In capturing the first two sets, Seppi carried the play. He was aggressive, efficient and in shape. He made Djokovic look beatable, a feat no one has accomplished in two years. For two sets, Seppi was the better player. Djokovic could not find his game. His psyche had no effect on the determined Italian.

Djokovic went on to claim the victory, 4-6, 6-7(5), 6-3, 7-5, 6-3, but it was Seppi that won the hearts of the French crowds during the 4-hour 30-minute match that presented a host of scheduling problems for the next combatants. The tightness of the match is reflected by two telling statistics. Djokovic struck 45 winners but Seppi answered with 43, more than the likes of Nadal or Federer or Murray usually score against the Serb. Seppi committed 81 unforced errors, Novak has 77, an amazing tally for a usually smooth Djokovic. Seppi had six aces to Djoko’s 5.

While Djokovic and Seppi were warring on Court Philippe Chatrier, Federer and “lucky loser” David Goffin of Belgium squared off on Court Suzanne Lenglen. The challenger carried the play in the first set and after failing to serve out the set came back with a timely break and a hold to win 7-5 in 47 tense minutes. Goffin looks a little like Justin Bibber and commentators mistook him for a ball boy when he arrived on court.

The ball boy went right to work, announcing his presence. He broke Federer and amazingly solidified the break. The many Belgians in the stands migrated to the Lenglen court and became noisier by the minute. Surprisingly, the 21-year old 109th ranked tour player did not let up in the second set. He had an opportunity to break and claim the set but he fell short. As the Belgian fans’ enthusiasm poured over the arena, Goffin played calmly on, just the way his hero Roger Federer would have done.

Federer pulled it out 5-7, 7-5, 6-2, 6-4, but can expect trouble in the next round. The Swiss will play the victor of the 4th round match between Juan Martin del Potro (9) and Tomas Berdych (7). These are two big players with power games. The match was suspended due to darkness with del Potro leading 2 sets to one.

Djokovic will face the winner of a five set thriller between France’s Jo Wilfried Tsonga and Stan Warwinka. This match was suspended with Tsonga leading the fifth set serving with a break up at 4-2. Both suspended matches will take place Monday morning.

The bookmakers list Nadal as a dominant 4/9 favorite, but the odds on Tsonga, del Potro and Berdych have trimmed nicely. Federer remains at 8/1 but looks like more a long shot from here. To date, the Swiss has not shown his best tennis.


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