Is Federer's 2009 French Open triumph his greatest? – The numbers behind the career Slam-clinching win

By Sports Desk June 07, 2020

Roger Federer enjoyed a history-making day back on June 7, 2009 as he finally won the French Open.

The Swiss great overcame Robin Soderling, the man who had earlier in the tournament dealt Rafael Nadal his first ever defeat at Roland Garros, in the final.

Federer's 6-1 7-6 (7-1) 6-4 triumph saw him complete the career Grand Slam and in the aftermath he described it as his "greatest victory".

Given the 20-time major winner's laundry list of achievements, that claim may seem dubious.

Here we look at the statistical context around his success in Paris to examine whether – 11 years on – it is worthy of the title bestowed upon it by Federer.

SHOCKS, COMEBACKS KEY TO CAUSE

Federer faced zero of the other three members of the big four in winning the title. Nadal's loss to Soderling was obviously key, while Novak Djokovic was beaten by Philipp Kohlschreiber in the round of 32 and Andy Murray came up short against Fernando Gonzalez in the quarter-finals.

His route to the final proved an arduous one. Federer endured three matches that lasted over three hours and came through two five-setters. 

He recovered from two sets and a break down to beat Tommy Haas in the last 16 and turned around a two sets to one deficit against Juan Martin del Potro in the semi-final.

The recovery against Haas was a remarkable Houdini act. Haas was two games away from victory and had break point at 7-6 7-5 4-3, but a clean winner from Federer turned the tide.

Recalling the match recently for Roland Garros' official website, Haas said: "I looked at that as a match point because he hadn't broken me up until that point I believe and I was serving well.

"I could see him running around that inside-out forehand... he was preparing for it. And he just hits it inside the line for a clean winner. It's almost like the Rocky IV movie. It's almost like I start bleeding after that game. And he cut me and got the momentum and never looked back."


MARATHON MAN FEDERER DOMINATES ON SERVE

Federer's trio of epics contributed to him spending a total of 18 hours and 35 minutes on court across his seven matches.

He needed such powers of longevity despite dominating on his serve.

Indeed, Federer served 80 aces, the most of any player to reach the last eight and won 78.9 per cent of points on his first serve.

Among quarter-final participants, only Del Potro was superior in that regard.

Federer also had the unenviable task of facing two French players en route to the final. He defeated Paul Henri Mathieu and Gael Monfils while surrendering just one set.

The home crowd may not have backed Federer in those contests, but they were roaring in approval come his performance in the final.


SODERLING SQUASHED

The final lasted just one hour and 55 minutes, Federer's second-fastest match of the tournament.

He needed only 23 minutes to wrap up the first set and there was to be no surprise comeback from Soderling despite a tight second.

Federer sent down 16 aces and won 84.6 per cent of his points on first serve, saving the only two break points he faced.

The win came in his 11th appearance at Roland Garros and his fourth final, Federer having lost his previous three appearances in the showpiece to Nadal.

Only once has he reached the final in Paris since, losing to Nadal in 2011.

Federer became the sixth man to achieve the career Grand Slam, with Nadal and Djokovic later following in his footsteps.

By defeating Soderling, Federer tied Peter Sampras with his 14th major title, reaching that total in 40 grand slam appearances, 12 fewer than Sampras (52). He would take sole ownership of the record 28 days later with a five-set win over Andy Roddick in the Wimbledon final.


IS IT HIS GREATEST?

"I just think it's an unbelievable achievement. I'm very proud of my career, obviously. I achieved more than I ever thought I would," said Federer afterwards.

"My dream as a boy was to win Wimbledon one day. I won that five times. To get [the Roland Garros title] at the end, as the last remaining grand slam, it's an incredible feeling.

"The waiting and the age definitely has a big impact on how important and how nice this victory actually is. It's been a long time coming and I'm happy I got it today. I'm very proud."

Federer will have felt an extra significance to the win given the scale of achievement it brought up and his previous issues getting over the line against Nadal.

The lack of a big-four opponent probably prevents it from being considered Federer's greatest slam triumph, with the victories against Nadal in the final of Wimbledon in 2007 and the Australian Open in 2017 among those that stand out from the pack.

Between his dominance of serve, the speed with which he swatted aside a dangerous opponent in Soderling, and the powers of recovery he showed against a player in Del Potro who would defeat him in the US Open final later in the year, it stands as one of the more underrated glories of his incredible career.

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    Birthday girl Simona Halep described her French Open first-round victory over Sara Sorribes Tormo as "the perfect present".

    Fresh from winning the Internazionali d'Italia in Rome, Halep arrived in Paris as favourite and top seed for the final grand slam of the year.

    And she marked her 29th birthday with a 6-4 6-0 triumph under the new roof on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

    "The perfect present was that I won, of course," said the 2018 champion. "It was a really special day playing on Roland Garros on my birthday, so it's going to be pretty unique maybe forever.

    "I cannot celebrate much, because I have to stay in the room, so I will have a bottle of water.

    "I will speak with my very close ones and loved ones. Just that. Nothing special. After the tournament, I will [celebrate properly]."

    While Halep, who now faces compatriot Irina-Camelia Begu, had the luxury of an enclosed arena the cold weather outside caused issues for others on a day that saw Venus Williams make an early exit.

    AZA-BRRR-ENKA

    It was a chilly day in the French capital and few people were more bothered by the conditions than Victoria Azarenka, who donned a jacket and leggings for her match with Danka Kovinic. 

    The former world number one triumphed 6-1 6-2 but she left the court three games into the first set claiming it was "too cold", a consequence of the tournament taking place four months later than planned.

    "I think my opponent first of all slipped in the third game, so I think she was also feeling a little bit uncomfortable," said Azarenka.

    "And I just asked like when my grip is getting wet in between points, are we going to still continue to play?

    "And then [the official] told me that if I'm willing to wait a little bit longer while the drizzle stops, because the rain was supposed to increase, and I said absolutely not because I don't see a point of sitting on the court when it's eight degrees.

    "I at the same time asked my opponent if she wants to wait on the court or she wants to go off court, and she said she doesn't want to wait on the court.

    "So, I'm not going to waste my time sitting there and getting cold."

    KONTA DUMPED OUT BY GAUFF

    Coco Gauff dumped out ninth seed Johanna Konta as the 16-year-old produced a fine display.

    Gauff came through in straight sets, beating the Briton 6-3 6-3 to secure a second-round showdown with qualifier Martina Trevisan.

    It constitutes a shock premature departure for Konta, who reached the semi-finals in 2019.

    VENUS DONE WITH 2020

    Venus Williams declaring she is "done" with 2020 is a statement with which many will be able to identify.

    The American veteran, a 2002 finalist at this slam, was beaten 6-4 6-4 Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, who will now face Azarenka.

    Asked if she had any plays to play again this year, the 40-year-old replied: "I'm going home from here. I'm done. If there is somewhere to play, I won't be there."

    One player who will have at least one more match this year is Eugenie Bouchard, who overcame Anna Kalinskaya 6-4 6-4.

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    Competing in just his third grand slam singles match since the 2019 Australian Open due to hip surgery and the coronavirus pandemic, Murray could not live with the 2015 winner.

    Wawrinka held serve throughout to prevail 6-1 6-3 6-2 in a time of one hour and 37 minutes as he set up a meeting with Dominik Koepfer in the second round.

    Elsewhere on Sunday, Italian teenager Jannik Sinner eliminated 11th seed David Goffin and British number one Dan Evans lost to Kei Nishikori in five sets.


    Lethargic Murray falls at first hurdle

    Grand slam winners Murray and Wawrinka served up a treat when they met in the semi-finals here in 2017, but there was far less drama involved in this latest clash.

    Wildcard entrant Murray lacked any sort of spark and looked subdued for the duration of the one-sided match as he failed to break his opponent's service game.

    Wawrinka, who has himself slipped down the rankings, broke Murray in the third, fifth and seventh games as he eased into a one-set lead.

    It was a similar case in the second set, with the Swiss continuing to dominate and earning an all-important break in the sixth game to leave Murray on the ropes.

    And any hope of a fightback from Murray, as was the case in last month's five-set victory over Yoshihito Nishioka in the US Open first round, were soon ended for good.

    Murray squandered three break points in the second game of the final set and Wawrinka did not look back, seeing out the game with an ace in an easier victory that expected.


    Sinner stuns Goffin 

    Sinner caught the eye when becoming the first Italian to win the Next Gen ATP Finals 10 months ago and he is now making his mark in majors.

    The 19-year-old won 11 games in a row en route to a convincing 7-5 6-0 6-3 victory and will now take on French qualifier Benjamin Bonzi in the next round.

    "He maybe didn't feel that well on court," Sinner said in his post-match interview. "I felt well. I have just been trying to be focused."

     

    Nishikori sees off Evans in five sets 

    British number one Evans was seeking his first win at Roland Garros but, dealt a tough hand against former world number four Nishikori, it was a fourth first-round exit in five years.

    After a sluggish start that saw him drop the first set, Nishikori soon recovered and took a 2-1 lead in the contest, only for Evans to show good fighting spirit in the fourth set.

    Despite battling back from 0-3 in the deciding set, Evans' revival was short-lived as he went down 1-6 6-1 7-6 (7-3) 1-6 6-4 in three hours and 49 minutes.

    "The end result was that I lost," Evans said. "I lost another first round which is a little disappointing and now I get ready for the indoor hardcourts."

    Isner sails through, Coric falls

    World number 23 John Isner made light work of Elliot Benchetrit, holding serve throughout in a routine 6-4 6-1 6-3 victory to set up a meeting with Sebastian Korda.

    Borna Coric had less success against Norbert Gombos, though, the 24th seed exiting the tournament with a 6-4 3-6 6-3 6-4 defeat.

    The US Open quarter-finalist lost serve in a gruelling third game and that was a sign of things to come against his stubborn opponent.

    Gombos, who reached round three in 2017, recovered after losing the second set to get over the line and produce a big upset on an eventful opening day in Paris.

  • French Open 2020: Halep lands birthday win in chilly Paris French Open 2020: Halep lands birthday win in chilly Paris

    Simona Halep eventually warmed to her French Open task as she won her opening match on a chilly first Sunday at Roland Garros.

    Under the new roof on Court Philippe-Chatrier and on her 29th birthday, title favourite Halep stumbled through the opening stages before pulling away to beat Spain's Sara Sorribes Tormo 6-4 6-0.

    From 4-2 behind in the opening set, after three consecutive breaks, Halep won 10 straight games to reach the second round of a tournament at which she won her first grand slam title two years ago.

    She landed 90 per cent of first serves in the second set, and struck 11 winners to five from her fading opponent.

    Fresh from winning the Internazionali d'Italia in Rome, Halep arrived in Paris as favourite and top seed for the final grand slam of the year.

    The second set was a stroll against Sorribes Tormo, a player who had only won one match in three previous main-draw appearances at the clay-court slam.

    Halep's early wobble may have been partly attributable to the unfamiliar conditions, with the temperature barely into double figures as the match began.

    Because the tournament has been moved back from its usual May start amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Paris will feel quite different to the players in action over the 15-day tournament.

    Romanian Halep paired a pink outfit with black leggings, and initially her tennis was as cold as the autumnal climate, but she predictably took control of matters and rolls on.

    She was serenaded to mark her birthday by former Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli during a post-match interview, with Halep hoping for more to celebrate in the coming fortnight.

    Data slam: Erratic early, but Halep strengths shine through

    Halep took charge of this contest once she cut down the unforced errors, which blighted her performance in the opening stages. She fired 12 winners in the opening set and 11 in the quickfire second, but the error count told the story of her improvement. After racking up 15 in the first set, Halep trimmed that number to a steadier eight in the second. She was clinical on her break-point opportunities, carving out nine and taking a healthy six of those.

    WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

    Halep – 23/23
    Sorribes Tormo – 10/16

    ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

    Halep – 1/0
    Sorribes Tormo – 0/2

    BREAK POINTS WON

    Halep – 6/9
    Sorribes Tormo – 2/4

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