After an in-depth review of his opening round triumph against Aljaz Bedene (read that analysis HERE) we are moving to the second step in Roger Federer's victorious run at 2018 Australian Open, taking a closer look of his 6-4 6-4 7-6 win over Jan-Lennard Struff from Germany. The match lasted an hour and 55 minutes and Roger did enough to prevail in straight sets, although he didn't play his best tennis.
The Swiss defended his second serve better and he lost serve only once to keep the pressure constantly on the other side of the net. He created 11 break chances and took Jan-Lennard's serve three times from 11 opportunities, once in each set.
These two have played once before in Halle 2016 and Roger scored a 6-4 7-6 triumph, in a similar outcome to what we saw here in Melbourne. Struff knew what he has to do if he wanted to stand a chance against the defending champion and he played a very decent match, hitting more winners than errors and not letting Roger outplay him from the baseline like he did versus Bedene.
Nonetheless, he failed to create a break point in the opening two sets, losing serve once in each to fall short before the tie break, and once he earned a break in set number three Roger pulled it back instantly to gain the momentum after a short setback.
The German was eager to take the pace out from Roger's shots and to attack his backhand as much as possible, something Aljaz failed to do in the opening round. Still, the number of service winners he blasted past Roger wasn't good enough to stay in touch with a mighty opponent, and the second serve made a huge difference in Federer's favor as well.
After 11 winners from his volley or smash in the first round encounter, Federer didn't hit a single one against Struff, opting to stay behind and break rival's rhythm from the baseline. In fact, Roger had just 16 winners from the court, 11 from his forehand, and he made 19 unforced errors, missing equally from both wings.
Struff's plan was plain and simple, he mixed his game nicely and fired 13 forehand winners and nine from his volley to hit 26 direct points from the field, 10 more than Federer. Still, he had five unforced errors more than Roger (24-19) and five double faults compared to one from Federer, hitting some of those in the worst possible moments.
They committed 20 forced errors each and it is pretty interesting to notice that almost nothing could separate them outside service winners, with a 66-65 advantage for Struff. We deliberately left service winners department for the end, as Roger made the crucial contrast with his initial shot, firing 44 unreturned serves against 24 from Struff, which sent him over the top.
Also, Roger overpowered Jan-Lennard with his well-engineered serve&first groundstroke combos, creating an 84-54 gap in the shortest rallies range up to four strokes. He needed to assemble such a big lead since Struff had the upper hand in the points that reached the fifth shot, winning 36 out of 61.
It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if Struff held in that fifth game of the third set or if he managed to win the tie break, but it was a very solid match on both sides, certainly worth of the fourth round clash instead of the second.
Jan-Lennard fired three winners in the opening game to get his name on the scoreboard and he won two points on the return in game two on Roger's serve, returning five out of six Federer's serves, which was very important for him.
Roger closed that game with a forehand winner and he pushed stronger on the return in the following game, creating his first break point. Struff blasted a service winner to fend it off and he brought the game home after two forced errors from Federer.
In the entire match with Bedene Roger had three forced errors from his backhand wing and he already had four in the first three games of this one, unable to defend from Struff's powerful attacks. The Swiss needed 59 seconds to grab the fourth game and he scored the first break of the match a few minutes later after three errors from Struff and his forehand winner, the most important shot of the set as it would turn to be.
They both served well in the next couple of games, Struff hit three service winners in game nine to reduce his deficit to 5-4 but he had only one more chance on the return if he wanted to prolong the set. He reached his first deuces on the return but Roger held after two service winners, scoring six winners and four errors in this game before clinching the set in 32 minutes.
Federer had a 10-6 advantage in service winners and 8-6 in the winners from the court, making six unforced errors each. Struff committed nine forced errors and Roger stayed on eight so the Swiss made all the difference with that one break of serve he got.
The second set started with four winners for each player in their service games and Roger was close to score another break in game three, creating two break points after three errors from the German. Struff did well to repel them both, winning an amazing 23-stroke rally and remaining unbroken after two forced errors from Roger.
Servers were untroubled in the next three games and it was Federer who threatened on the return in game seven, breaking Jan-Lennard with a backhand winner. It turned out it was all he needed to notch the second set just 64 minutes after the start of the match, rattling off 13 points in a row on serve and placing a forehand winner in the last point of the 10th game to move just a set away from the overall win.
Roger's serve worked like a char in this set, dropping just three points and firing 14 service winners against just six from Struff. Still, the German was more effective from the court, hitting eight winners and leaving Roger on five, and they again had a similar number of errors (5-4 for Struff in unforced and 4-4 in forced mistakes).
Just like the first, this set was decided by a single break and Federer created the gap with unreturned serves that kept Jan-Lennard under pressure in his games. After the opening two sets, almost nothing could separate them in the winners from the field (14-13 Struff) unforced errors (11-10 Struff) and forced errors (13-12 Struff) but the Swiss already hit 12 service winners more than his rival (24-12), never facing a break point and using one opportunity on the return in each set to forge a huge lead before set number three.
Point by point result and the number of shots in the rallies: