Roger Federer has overcome a rocky start and a sore back to beat Xavier Malisse 7-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 for a place in the Wimbledon quarterfinals. Federer continues to fight for a chance to claim a seventh title at the most prestigious tournament tennis has to offer.
Federer didn’t look happy from the outset. His movement wasn’t up to it’s usual standard and it wasn’t long until the doctor and trainer were out on court assessing a player who rarely calls for help. Federer has had increasing problems with his back over the last two years and underwent a treatment block earlier in the year for his back.
After leaving the court to receive treatment for a back problem, Federer was broken immediately positioning Malisse to serve for the first set at 6-5. Meekly, and while Federer was still struggling with his movement, Malisse handed the break back.
Federer’s forehand briefly looked to lack power and depth as the tennis great seemed to be unable to generate significant racket head speed.
As they entered a tiebreak Malisse came undone as Federer just put balls into play and watched as Xavier failed to go in for the kill and take advantage of the opportunity before the rain delay.
With a break that wasn’t quite long enough to close the roof Federer was given a chance to attend to his back for more than the standard 3 minute injury time out period. Meanwhile, Xavier was left to rue missed opportunities.
Malisse struggled to find anything to challenge a renewed and sharp Federer who was making almost every shot, including some incredible volleys. Soon the Fed-Express was ahead 5-1 and looking like a completely different man to the miserable looking Roger from set one.
Re-finding some luck and penetration on his shots, Malisse started with an early break an f a 3-1 lead in the third set. Holding onto his lead as Federer’s intensity dropped just a fraction, Malisse managed to force a fourth set.
Again, with the momentum still on his racket, Malisse broke early for a 2-1 lead but a mishit on break point allowed Federer to get back on serve.
Seemingly unable to continue to fight off Federer any longer Xavier quickly fell behind 2-5 and soon the match was over.
How Federer’s back recovers remains to be seen (I’m sure he’ll pull it together) but he now faces the winner of Istomin and Youzhny – either way a manageable day at the office for one of the greatest players the sport has ever seen.