Roger Federer pulled off what is technically an upset over Novak Djokovic in the semifinals of the 2011 French Open. We say technically because it's the number two and three players in the world, and thinking about Federer beating somebody as an upset is actually kind of weird. Federer won the first two sets looking every part the great champion he's always been. His accuracy was almost perfect, his footwork was there, and his serve was amazingly on point. Djokovic seemed to struggle with his movement early on, sliding and slipping a few times, but mostly played high level tennis.
It's just that Federer's level was that much higher. The first set was one of beauty, back-and-forth, and this writer's favorite set since the 2008 Australian Open semifinal matchup between Rafael Nadal and Fernando Verdasco (disclaimer: huge Verdasco fan, totally biased). Throughout the entirety of the matchup, Federer continued to have double and triple break point opportunities, but to Djokovic's credit, he kept up and fought back numerous times.
After losing the first two sets, Djokovic started to show more fire and added a lot of aggressiveness to his game, and he had Federer on the ropes quite a bit. It just wasn't enough in the end, and the "old man" showed he still has plenty left. That's the end of Djokovic's streak, short of the major records, and of course it also means he fails to take over the number one ranking in the world. The final scores for the match are 7-5, 6-3, 3-6, 7-5. The fourth set tiebreak was definitely intense. Federer will now go on to face Rafael Nadal in the finals, a very tall task indeed.
These are the notes that I had made while watching the match, I have decided to include them unedited just for the folks who might be interested.
Federer breaks Djokovic to start the match, but Djokovic breaks back. Federer threatens with a triple break point, but Djokovic works to deuce. They fight through deuce six times until Djokovic gets the hold and goes up 2-1. Federer utilizing the backhand up the line very well, and holds in the fourth set at 40-love. Djokovic serving again falls to 30-40 and Federer has a break point opportunity, but it goes to deuce. Two great serves later (including an ace) and Djokovic holds. Then, Federer falters with a couple bad points and Djokovic with a strong, strong return at 40-15 to break Federer and take a 4-2 lead in the set. Federer keeps up with his trend of getting breakpoint opportunities on each of Djokovic's service games, going up 40-love once again. Djokovic is sliding a little bit and having trouble with either the court or his shoes, but he's visibly upset. Federer gets the break, able to make beautiful shot after beautiful shot on the move, and now he's serving to tie it up. Federer holds with almost no issue, and we're at 4-4. Djokovic holds and then it's Federer up serving. Suddenly, he finds himself down 40-15, much like the earlier break where Djokovic just returned well. Two great saves later, and Federer works it to deuce, then gets the advantage and holds. They continue holding until a tiebreak, where Djokovic takes an early lead, but Federer responds to take it 7-5.
Federer holds in the first game with minimal issue. Fast forward and we're at 2-1 with Djokovic serving, and Federer has a double break point opportunity, but once again Djokovic gets it to deuce. This time though, Federer comes through and gets the break, and then holds uneventfully and has a 4-1 lead in the set. Federer gets another double break point. And yet ... again .. Djokovic fights it off, they get to deuce a few times, and this time Djokovic holds. I blinked and Federer held serve to go up 5-2. Federer works to 40-0 on Djokovic's serve and he's making it look easy. And, like clockwork, Djokovic gets it back to deuce with strong serving. After five or six set points (lost count), Djokovic gets the advantage and then the set with, again, strong serves. That's about the only thing that's going right for the Serbian. And then, suddenly, Djokovic is looking at a potential breakpoint at 40-30 ... but Federer is relentless, and he takes the second set 6-3.
Djokovic holds to start off the set. Then, he out-plays Federer significantly and gets the break point, taking a 2-0 set lead. Then he holds and it's 3-0, playing fiercely for every point. Federer fights off a break point and holds serve with a beautiful ace down the center line. But Djokovic is relentless, and eventually he comes away with a 6-3 set of his own with dominant play.
So we go on to the fourth set, balanced play through two games, holding serve. They stay on, both guys are just playing strong tennis. Djokovic has either elevated his play or Federer has come back down to earth a little bit, perhaps a little both. Djokovic gets a 4-4 break and is serving at 5-4. Yet again, Federer gets a triple break point opportunity. Djokovic gets an ace, and then has a strong forehand to get it to 40-30. But Federer comes back with a beautiful forehand that Djokovic has no chance on and gets the break, and is serving at 5-5. Federer gets to 30-love, but Djokovic comes back and they end up at deuce. Djokovic gets the advantage, but Federer grabs another ace and has two more strong serves to win the game and go up 6-5. Djokovic holds and we're going to a tiebreak. We go to 2-1 Federer, and then his concentration is broken by a moving ball boy, and it's 2-2. Federer with a strong rally gets to 3-2. Djokovic takes it to 3-3, Federer has a strong forehand and then an ace and he's at 5-3. Djokovic has a shot that just barely makes it over the net. Probably the closest shot I've ever seen to make it over the net, to stay alive. Then ... Federer gets an ace, the match is done for.