Five-time champion Roger Federer meets with Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber for a place in the US Open quarter-finals. Both men are veterans with deep wells of experience of competing at the highest level in the game. They are also both elegant shot makers at home on the biggest stage. Who will come out on top in the first match of the night session on Arthur Ashe?
Federer again faces an opponent who he has played often throughout his career, and who he has a dominant head-to-head record against. Kohlschreiber has come up against the legendary Swiss 11 times and lost on every occasion. They first met 12 years ago in Halle in the quarter-finals. Federer dominated the German in that match winning 6-3 6-4. It took until their fourth meeting for Kohlschreiber to win his first set against Federer, which he did in a 3-6 2-6 7-6 1-6 loss in the third round at Wimbledon. Since then, he has managed to win only two more sets against Federer, which he managed in Halle in 2015 and in Basel later that year. They have met once at the US Open in the third round two years ago, a match Federer won in straight sets on his way to the final.
Federer also has an advantage in experience. Kohlschreiber has had a fine career, reaching the fourth round at least twice at every Slam, also making the quarter-finals at Wimbledon in 2012. He has eight career titles and 419 match wins. However, Federer has substantially more experience, especially at the highest level. Whilst the run to the quarters at Wimbledon in 2012 is the only time Kohlschreiber has reached the last eight at a Major, Federer has made 50 Grand Slam quarter-finals. He also has 1118 match wins and 93 career titles.
Path to the fourth round
Federer began his US Open against American teenager Frances Tiafoe. The American surprised the crowd, and likely the great Swiss himself, by breaking early in the first set. He held his serve throughout and sealed the opener. Federer fought back, swiftly levelling and then taking the lead. But in the fourth set Tiafoe was unplayable, dropping just one game to send the match to a decider. It was a tight affair, with Federer drawing first blood only to be broken when serving for it. When serving to stay alive, Tiafoe’s nerve failed and Federer broke to seal the win. He next came up against Mikhail Youzhny, whom he had a 16-0 head-to-head record against coming into the match. It looked comfortable on paper and seemed even more so when the Swiss claimed the first set 6-1.
But Youzhny fought back superbly to take the second set in a tie break, and in the third set he had the momentum. He pressed his advantage to win the third set 6-4. That was the high point for Youzhny, however, as his body began to fail him. His movement became laboured and Federer took advantage, taking the fourth set and rolling through the decider to seal a 6-1 6-7 4-6 6-4 6-2 win. In the third round he faced Feliciano Lopez. Federer looked out of form, and the Spaniard a tricky opponent, but in reality, it was Lopez who delivered a subpar performance. Federer breezed through him to win 6-3 6-3 7-5 and reach the quarter-finals.
Kohlschreiber also began against an American, qualifier Tim Smyczek. Smyczek looked over-matched and the German came through comfortably 6-1 6-4 6-4. He next clashed with Santiago Giraldo. The Colombian can be a difficult opponent at times, with his flat powerful groundstrokes making him unplayable when he is at his best. But he was hampered by injury against Kohlschreiber and retired when two sets down in the third at 3-0. John Millman of Australia, who had upset Nick Kyrgios in the previous round was Kohlschreiber’s next opponent. The Australian had done well to get so far, but couldn’t really trouble Kohlschreiber, losing 5-7 2-6 4-6.
How do they match up?
Federer is legendary for his variety but the core of his game is an excellent serve and one of the best forehands in the game. His backhand, once a weakness, has improved dramatically over the course of his career. His topspin drive has been particularly effective this year, aided by the change to a larger racquet face. That being said, by his own admission, his slice has lost some of its effectiveness as a result. Kohlschreiber is not dissimilar in style to Federer. He also deploys an attractive single-hander style but his forehand and serve are less potent. His court coverage, however, is excellent while he has a terrific running forehand.
Kohlschreiber will have to serve at his very best if he is to have a chance of progressing. At only 5’10 he is one of the shorter players on tour and this limits the effectiveness of his serve. His second delivery, in particular, can be vulnerable to being attacked. Against a returner as aggressive as Federer he will need to maintain a high first serve percentage or risk being broken often.
Federer looked shaky in his first two matches but was as assured as ever against Lopez. If he can bring that level of performance against Kohlschreiber then he should record his 12th win against the German. It’s rare for Federer’s level of performance to drop as a tournament progresses and as a result, it’s hard to see him playing poorly against Kohlschreiber. He’s shown in their 11 previous meetings that if he plays well, he’ll win. Federer in straight sets.
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