With his Wimbledon campaign now gathering pace, eight-time and defending champion Roger Federer takes on the big hitting German Jan-Lennard Struff for a place in the fourth round at the Championships. Federer suffered a frustrating loss in the Halle final ahead of Wimbledon, but did lift the title in Stuttgart and has looked sharp so far. But Struff has plenty of power and no doubt ambitions of causing a seismic shock. Who will come out on top?
Federer and Struff have met twice so far in their careers, with Federer winning both matches in straight sets, although Struff gave a reasonable account of himself on both occasions. The first came two years ago in Halle in the first round with Federer beating the younger man 6-4 7-6. Their rivalry was renewed earlier this year in the second round of the Australian Open. Struff played well and at times brought the best out of Federer, but was ultimately beaten in straight sets 6-4 6-4 7-6.
Path to the first round
Federer has put together two impressive victories to reach the third round unscathed. He first defeated Dusan Lajovic in a rematch of their second round match at last year’s Championships. The Serbian made a fast start in that match, but this year it was Federer who got off the mark quickly and the top seed never looked back, winning 6-1 6-3 6-4. He then finished strongly to see off the challenge of Lukas Lacko, advancing to the round of 32 courtesy of a 6-4 6-4 6-1 win.
Struff has found his passage rather less straightforward. The man from Warstein took a while to get going in his first match which pitted him against the in-form Leonardo Mayer, seeded 32nd. Mayer took a two set lead before Struff’s power began to tell and he turned it around to win 3-6 6-7 7-6 7-6 6-1. He then survived an epic with the giant Ivo Karlovic, again rallying from two sets down to oust the Croatian 6-7 3-6 7-6 7-6 13-11.
How do they match up?
Federer’s offensive quality is unquestionable, but it is arguably his serve, which has supplied him with over 10,000 aces during his career, that has become the cornerstone of his game. Though there are many on the Tour that generate more pace on their own deal than the Swiss, few are as accurate and as hard to read when stepping to the line. When that excellent serve is combined with a superb forehand, a fine backhand and lovely hands at the net, how Federer came to win 20 Slams becomes clearer.
But it will be his defensive abilities that are put to the test against Struff as much as it is his offensive skills. The German is a fearsomely powerful player, particularly off the forehand which cut Mayer and Karlovic down to size. His movement, however, unlike Federer’s, is a weakness that can be exploited. Moreover, how much he has left in his legs after back-to-back five set battles is questionable and fatigue could just prove the decisive blow against Struff.
Perhaps unlike Lacko and Lajovic, Struff has a puncher’s chance in this match. The 28-year-old has the power to worry even the mighty Federer. But the Swiss has handled him in straight sets before even if they weren’t the most comfortable of victories. And Struff’s exertions will surely catch up with him at some point in this match. So whilst he may have the perfect day and pull off the upset, the more likely outcome by far is a straight sets Federer victory.