Roger Federer Sharpens the Sword in Round 3 at the French Open

PARIS–

Roger Federer experimented with some of his lesser-used plays and tactics in a match where he hit a staggering 52 winners en route to victory over Casper Ruud 6-3, 6-1, 7-6.

52 winners (which includes 11 aces– it’s the way official stats are kept here at Roland Garros) in a 3-set match. On clay. Let that sink in like a divot in the dirt.

It was Federer’s 400th win at a Grand Slam Tournament.

The 20-time Grand Slam Champion and 3-seed in this 2019 Roland Garros played around by serving-and-volleying– even on 2nd serve– and hit shots like inside-in backhand in a match that at times almost seemed boring to him. Other shots Federer honed included half-volleys from the baseline and no-look touch backhand volleys.

“It’s always nice when I can run through a set and a half with no problems,” Federer said. “It’s good for my confidence.” Federer also mentioned he was happy to have played a tiebreaker because it helped him practice constructing breaker points on clay.

The 20-year-old Norwegian Ruud is a rising ATP star and the son of former tour professional Christian Ruud. He has quickness and extreme racquet head speed, but lacks the efficiency and elegance of Federer. Ruud has idolized Federer-rival Rafael Nadal and even trains at the Rafa Nadal Academy in Spain.

But today it was as if Ruud was being shown the error of his ways– perhaps he picked the wrong guy to emulate.

Aside from the barrage of winners– tough to do on clay– Federer’s winning percentage on first serve was a whopping 80% to Ruud’s 67%. Serve is where Roger dominates early and often.

Sets 1 and 2 were typical Federer masterclasses in serve placement and graceful movement. He allowed Ruud to break his serve in the 3rd set, but got the break back before the match culminated in a tiebreaker.

When Ruud was able to gain a set-point against Federer in the tiebreaker, Roger served-and-volleyed to erase set point.

During the post-match handshake, Ruud smiled and chatted, seeming to be proud to have at least pushed Federer to a breaker in one set.

The GOAT was all about risk today as a means to sharpen his clay-court skills and test what he can pull off on this surface. It will prepare him for what lies ahead.

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