November 15, 2018
Roger Federer is well and truly back! Now he will set his sights on title number 100 with a growing confidence.
But Novak Djokovic will surely stand in his way, if both can book a place in the showpiece this weekend.
That delicious drama was always going to looming in the background.
But first there was a big score to settle – 13-11 in the fifth, to be precise.
Sure enough, Federer avenged his Wimbledon defeat to Kevin Anderson in fine style to reach the ATP semi-finals at London’s O2 Arena.
The South African had ended Federer’s Wimbledon dream when he came from two sets down to pull off a huge upset during the summer.
But this time there was no comeback in the English capital for the gangly giant with the big serve. Instead the Swiss master held his nerve and won through 6-4, 6-3 to bring the house down.
Bigger tests will come in the next few days. Federer will need to find an even higher level. But this was impressive just the same.
Federer looked sprightly and aggressive all match. Only his serve looked vulnerable at times.
But he more than made up for that with superb movement, stunning backhands and classic court-craft.
The victory means that Federer should avoid Novak Djokovic in the semi-final. It therefore protects the dream final everyone wants to see.
Anderson also progresses to the semis. He will need to rediscover an effective backhand and improve his movement if he is to stand any chance against his likely opponent, the imperious Djokovic.
Roger looked a relieved man after his poor start to the finals against Kei Nishikori put him in a tight spot.
Since then he has grown in strength. And his hunger is back.
He said: ‘Well I’m very happy. With my back against the wall, maybe it’s easier for me to play, I’m not sure. My team and I came up with good game plans against Dominic Thiem and Kevin tonight.
‘I’m thrilled. My body is feeling really good I must say, I still feel I have some energy in the tank, even though it’s been a long year.
‘I was ready for the big serves and I was ready not to get frustrated. Maybe Kevin didn’t play his best match. But I out-manoeuvred him too. So I’ll take the credit.
‘I don’t know who I’ll play next, but when I do we’ll plan accordingly.’
Anderson had his chances. He had a simple backhand winner to go 0-40 ahead and give himself a great opportunity for 4-2 in the opening set. Somehow he blew it.
The taller man did break back for 4-4 after Federer had initially turned the tables – but couldn’t maintain momentum.
Not that he ever stopped trying to spoil the party, as 17,000 Federer fans roared on their favourite.
As Roger served for the set at 5-4, he had to survive three break points in order to close out.
Anderson led 3-2 in the second but soon he ran out of self-belief.
Djokovic may not be so accommodating if offered the same invitations further down the line.
But let’s take nothing away from Federer. The footwork belonged to a man ten or twenty years younger.
He would dearly love to take down Djokovic on his way to an incredible 100th title.
It’s not impossible. For Roger Federer, nothing ever is.