Staying in the world's elite for two decades and claiming 20 Major titles and over 100 ATP titles, Roger Federer is one of the most accomplished players in the game's history. Asked about the most important shot of his glorious career, Roger had to think before picking that famous forehand winner against Tommy Haas at Roland Garros 2009.
A day after Robin Soderling delivered Rafael Nadal's first defeat at Roland Garros, Roger Federer survived a stern Tommy Haas test to reach the quarters and become the favorite to win his first title in Paris. On June 1, 2009, Roger toppled the German 6-7, 5-7, 6-4, 6-0, 6-2 in three hours and seven minutes, advancing to the last eight at Roland Garros for the sixth time and moving three matches away from the elusive crown.
It was the 11th meeting between Roger and Tommy, who have known each other since the junior days, and the Swiss scored his ninth win, also the eighth in a row. The 31-year-old Haas reached the fourth round in Paris for the first time in seven years and arrived in Paris with just nine wins in the first five months of the season.
Haas was on the verge of beating Roger in straight sets, leading 7-6, 7-5, 4-3 with a break point in the eighth game that could have sealed the deal for him and ruin Roger's chances of winning Roland Garros without the main rival in the draw!
In one of his most famous shots in a career, Federer fired a forehand winner to repel that break chance and gain a massive boost that carried him towards the victory. Nothing was the same after that, and Federer performed a great comeback, winning 15 of the last 17 games to book his place in the quarters, coming back from two sets to love down for the fifth time in his career.
The Swiss had the numbers on his side after a one-sided scoreboard in sets four and five, finishing the match with 16 aces and saving three out of five break points to limit the damage in his games and keep the pressure on Tommy.
Haas had to play against 15 break points and got broken seven times, losing steam in the closing stages of the third set and struggling to keep the pace with Roger in the last two sets. Federer was off to a perfect start, not losing a single point in six service games of the opening set and keeping the pressure on Haas, with the German doing his best to stay in touch despite evident struggle on the second serve.
After a solid smash, Tommy saved a break point in game six and served well in the rest of the set to secure a tie break after 40 minutes of play. After 24 consecutive points won on serve since the start of the match, Roger opened a tie break with a forehand unforced error, and Tommy held the advantage until the end, firing two service winners to claim the breaker 7-4.
Federer grabbed a break in the second set's third game and was untouchable in his games until game eight when Tommy created his first break point of the match and converted it after Roger's loose forehand to level the score at 4-4.
Roger Federer picked the most important shot of his career.
After that, the Swiss lost the ground and suffered another break in game 12 following more mistakes from the forehand wing, allowing Tommy to move two sets to love up after only an hour and 28 minutes.
The third set kicked off with seven easy holds on both sides, and that eighth game proved to be the pivotal one, with a break chance for Haas after yet another colossal forehand error from Roger, who was on the brink of defeat.
Federer repelled it with a forehand crosscourt winner that saved his life in this match and the entire tournament and held after Haas' forehand error to level the score at 4-4 and boost his chances for an ultimate comeback.
Tommy suffered a big blow in the next game, losing serve after being 40-15 up before Roger closed the set on his serve for 6-4, firing a forehand winner to reduce the deficit and prolong the encounter that was on his racquet now.
The German lost his serve at the start of the fourth set, and Federer moved 3-0 up with a return winner in game three. The three-time beaten finalist was in complete control now, grabbing the fourth break in a row and clinching the set with a forehand winner a few minutes later for 6-0 and the status of the favorite in the decider.
Haas made two good holds at the start of the final set to regain at least something of his composure, but that was all we saw from him, as he lost serve at 2-2 after a forehand error that sealed his fate. Roger confirmed the break with three aces in a row, and a return winner sent him 5-2 up.
Haas was ready to fight until the very last point, creating a break chance in the eighth game with a forehand winner. Roger erased it with a forehand drive volley winner and converted the second match point with an unreturned serve to start a big celebration and continue his way towards the only Major he had been missing in his collection.
"It's not easy to pick the most important shot of my career, but I would go with that forehand against Tommy Haas at Roland Garros 2009. We still think about it every time we see each other. In the end, I won the match and conquered Roland Garros and Career Grand Slam and matched Pete Sampras' Major record.
It felt it carried something super important at that moment. I was aware that a miss would most probably mark my exit, as we both knew that. Momentum shifted to my side of the court, and I had a wonderful summer after that, winning Roland Garros and Wimbledon," Roger Federer said.