Back in 2003, Roger Federer transformed himself from a super talented youngster into a Grand Slam champion, and his career never looked the same again. After winning the Australian Open at the beginning of 2004, the Swiss conquered the ATP throne and he would play 4 amazing seasons, winning 11 Majors between 2004-07 and staying above Rafael Nadal and all the other competitors to write the new chapters of tennis history book again and again. The peak of his domination came in 206 when he played 97 matches, winning 92 of those and lifting 12 trophies from 17 tournaments he entered.
Nadal beat him in the final of Dubai, Monte Carlo, Rome (one of the best matches ever) and Roland Garros and the only time when he failed to reach the final was in Cincinnati, losing to British teenager Andy Murray in straight sets.
Roger never played so many matches during the season and he decided to visit Japan for the first and only time, competing at the Tokyo Open in the first week of October. World number 1 had to dig deep to reach the semis, ousting Viktor Troicki and Takao Suzuki in close encounters, but he saved his best tennis for the last two tests to grab his 9th crown of the season.
In this analysis, we will take a closer look at his semi-final triumph over Germany's Benjamin Becker by 6-3 6-4 in exactly an hour. This was their first meeting (they would play 4 times, with Roger taking them all in straight sets) and Roger advanced to the final with a single break in each set, controlling the scoreboard and holding the strings in his hands.
He was 29 from 29 on his first serve and has managed to keep his second serve safe as well, losing just 8 points in his service games to face one break point, that he successfully defended to stay unbroken. Roger was impressive in set number 2, dropping just a single point on serve and racing towards the finish line in no time at all, saving energy for the final clash against Tim Henman (whom he beat in 67 minutes without facing a break point).
On the other hand, Benjamin had to work harder in his service games, especially in the opening 3 when Federer forced 6 deuces and a break that pushed him in front. In the rest of the encounter, Becker had some solid games but he stayed away from any chance on the return and one loose service game in set number 2 cost him the match when he made 3 forehand unforced errors.
Overall, the match was dotted with service winners and forced errors and it was Roger who fired more direct points and committed a fewer number of mistakes to emerge as a deserved winner. Becker had to throw his best shots to make some damage on Federer's backhand and it wasn't enough to give him the better result, as he made just too many errors with his forehand, many in the crucial moments.
Also, Roger was moving well, hitting the ball early and opening the court for an easy execution, backed by the perfect display on his first serve and in his service games in general, notably in the second set. 12 aces in total don't give the full picture about how well the players served, as they had 41 service winners in total, 23 for Federer and 18 for Becker.
Also, Swiss added 10 winners from the court while German stayed on 5, and that was a nice difference in Federer's favor before we consider the number of errors they made. Becker couldn't control his forehand and that led him to 14 unforced errors, 5 more than Roger who tamed his shots nicely to keep both wings under control.
German did a fine job in forcing 14 mistakes from his opponent, 8 from the backhand wing, but he made 12 as well, so that couldn't give him the edge. Ast nothing could separate them in the shortest points up to 4 strokes (35-33 for Roger) and in 13 longest rallies (8-5 for the Swiss) but the mid-range exchanges from 5 to 8 shots were the area where Federer made the crucial buffer, taking 17 out of 25 to wrap up the triumph.
Point by point result and the number of shots in the rallies: