Roger Federer – Top 10 Memorable Matches
Roger Federer was often a competitor in the greatest battles ever to grace a tennis court.
Across all four Slams and other top level competition, Tennishead looks back at the most memorable contests in the career of the 20-time Slam champion.
10. vs Andy Murray – Wimbledon 2012 Final
Federer wins 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4
This match had great significance for both men. Federer was vying to tie Pete Sampras on a men’s record seven Wimbledon titles. On the other hand, Murray was fighting to become the first British male Slam champion for nearly 76 years.
Despite the weight of a nation on his shoulders, Murray was the one who opened the stronger. He broke Federer for 5-4 before serving out the first set. The Brit had chances to break in the second, but Federer held him off before breaking at 6-5 to level match.
Rain interrupted play early in the third set, meaning the Centre Court roof was deployed for the first time in a Wimbledon final. From here the Swiss was too ferocious for Murray. A forehand pass drifted wide from him as Federer fell to the court. His 17th Major and seventh Wimbledon, leaving Murray to ponder another year.
To top it off, Federer reclaimed the world number one spot from Novak Djokovic. In doing so he equaled Sampras on another men’s record, that of most weeks at number one with 286.
9. vs Rafael Nadal – 2007 Hamburg Masters Final
Federer wins 2-6, 6-2, 6-0
An eleventh ever meeting between the rivals, Nadal led 7-3 in their head-to-head. On clay, the Spaniard had a 5-0 stranglehold over Federer. More broadly, Nadal was seemingly invincible on the red dirt. Stretching back to 2005 Monte Carlo Masters, the 20-year-old had won 81 consecutive matches on the surface. This was an Open Era single surface record, and saw Nadal win 13 tournaments including six Masters events and two Roland Garros crowns.
And after winning the first set 6-2, it looked likely that a 14th successive title and 82nd win were on the cards. But Federer surged back, winning 12 of the next 14 games to end the Nadal streak. The 6-0 final set was one of just three ever suffered by Nadal on clay in his entire career to date.
8. vs Novak Djokovic – 2011 US Open Semi-final
Djokovic wins 6-7 (7-9), 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 7-5
Federer will likely want to forget this match, particularly since it was a moment of unfortunate déjà vu. This was the fifth year in a row that the two met at the US Open. Federer led that head-to-head 3-1, but Djokovic had won their most recent battle in 2010. In that semi-final he save two match points before ultimately coming out on top.
Initially it seemed as though Federer had put that match out of his mind by going two sets up against the Serb. The Swiss had recently lost in the quarter-finals of Wimbledon from this position to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. surely he would not do so again?
Not only did Federer lose, but again he held two match points over Djokovic, the world number one going on to claim his maiden US Open title.
7. vs Rafael Nadal – 2006 Rome Masters Final
Nadal wins 6-7 (0-7), 7-6 (7-5), 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (7-5)
While Federer eventually ended Nadal’s stupendous clay streak from 2005 to 2007, it would not come here. As the two gladiators met in the Italian Open final, the Spaniard had already won 52 matches in a row on the surface. Of course, he was the defending champion too.
This was Federer’s second final in Rome, having lost to Félix Mantilla in 2003. Momentum swung back and forth in this match before Federer went 4-1 up in the final set. But Nadal broke back immediately as the contest went on to 5-6 on his serve. Federer carved out two championship points at 15-40, but squandered them with two errant forehands.
After Nadal held Federer led through much of the tiebreak, but would ultimately falter to hand his rival a championship point. Nadal gladly took it. Federer would never claim a title in Rome, losing two more finals to Nadal in 2013 and Djokovic in 2015.
6. vs Novak Djokovic – 2011 French Open Semi-final – Federer stems the Djokovic tide
Federer wins 7-6 (7-5), 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7-5)
Another streak for Federer to snap. Djokovic began 2011 by winning his second Australian Open title before claiming six more successive titles. Those were Dubia, the ‘Sunshine Double’ of Indian Wells and Miami, Belgrade, Madrid and Rome.
The Serb was 37-0 entering the French Open before four wins to meet Federer in the semi-finals. Federer had lost three times already to Djokovic during the 41-match streak. He was ready to end it. The Swiss proceeded to inflict the first loss of the year on Djokovic, one of just six in total suffered by the man who would end the year as world number one.
“It almost feels like I’ve won the tournament, which is not the case,” Federer said. Of course, he had not, and did not, losing to Nadal for the Spaniard’s sixth Paris triumph.
5. vs Rafael Nadal – 2009 Australian Open Final
Nadal wins 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (7-3), 3-6, 6-2
This match was embedded within a significant turning point in the rivalry of these great adversaries. Nadal had finally beaten Federer at his beloved Wimbledon. But the 22-year-old was yet to reach a hard court Slam final, a surface on which Federer had won eight of the last 10 Major events. In fact, he had never lost a Slam final on a hard court to this point.
Nadal played a match for the ages in the semi-finals. There he defeated compatriot Fernando Verdasco in a tussle lasting five hours and 14 minutes. But he had energy for more come his meeting with Federer. It was their seventh meeting in a Slam final and first outside the French Open and Wimbledon.
Federer had the chance to equal Sampras’ record fo 14 Major titles here, but would let it slip. After battling to share the first four sets, Federer faded in the fifth as Nadal clinched his first Melbourne triumph.
4. vs Rafael Nadal – 2017 Australian Open Final – Unexpected Federer Renaissance
Federer wins 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3
After clinching a 17th Slam title, at Wimbledon 2012, Federer did not claim another Major from 2013 to 2016. Meanwhile, Nadal had not contested a Slam final since 2014. So who could have expected the two to meet in the Australian Open final?
This was a ninth Slam final meeting between the two and first since the 2011 French Open. With Serena and Venus Williams facing off in the women’s final, Melbourne felt like it was hosting a throwback event. Unlike their 2009 final epic, it was Federer who came out on top this time around. No doubt the Swiss was stunned to win his 18th Slam crown.
3. vs Andy Roddick – Wimbledon 2009 Final
Federer wins 5-7, 7-6 (8-6), 7-6 (7-5), 3-6, 16-14
Throughout the 2000s, Federer was the bane of Roddick’s tennis career. Meeting 24 times between 2001 and 2012, the American claimed just three victories over the Swiss. The three most heartbreaking of those losses came in the final of Wimbledon. First was 2004, when Federer won in four sets. In 2005 Fed won again, this time in straight sets.
Four years on and Roddick put up his best fight yet. His biggest weapon, the serve, was firing on all cylinders. He took the first set as he did in 2004. The second set reached a tiebreak, and Roddick went 6-2. But Federer reeled off six points in a row to steal the set. Another tiebreak in the third meant Roddick went two sets to one down without even dropping serve.
He levelled the match in the fourth before one of the most epic sets in Slam final history. Without a final set tiebreak the two men were deadlocked. At 8-8, Federer found himself serving at 15-40, but denied Roddick the chance to serve for the match.
Eventually, as Roddick served to level the set for a 15th time down 14-15, he surrendered a break chance to Federer at 40-Ad. A shanked forehand handed Federer the match as he broke Roddick for the only time in the match. In doing so he overtook Sampras to 15 Slam crowns, the men’s record at the time.
2. vs Novak Djokovic – Wimbledon 2019 Final – Federer’s last Slam final
Djokovic wins 7-6 (7-5), 1-6, 7-6 (7-4), 4-6, 13-12 (7-3)
The heartbreak suffered by Roddick in 2009 was bestowed on Federer himself a decade later. Facing Djokovic for the third time in a Wimbledon final, Federer was vying for a 21st Major trophy, while Djokovic sought his 16th.
After three tight sets, like Roddick in 2009, Federer found himself two sets to one down without dropping his serve. After levelling the match to force a deciding set, fans settled in for the long haul. However, with a final set tiebreak newly instated that year, the deepest the set could go was 12-12.
The two traded breaks twice in the set, the second of which saw Federer serving for the championship up 8-7. He made it to 40-15, two championship points, on his own serve. But a wayward forehand from him followed by an audacious passing winner from Djokovic saw them slip away. The Serb eventually broke as the men did reach a tiebreak at 12-12, the first of the tournament.
And Djokovic took his chance to close the longest final in Wimbledon history at four hours and 57 minutes long. This was the last of Federer’s 31 Slam final appearances.
1. vs Rafael Nadal – Wimbledon 2008 Final
Nadal wins 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-7 (8-10), 9-7
Some say it is the greatest tennis match ever played. Federer, the world number one and five-time defending champion. Nadal, the world number two and twice runner-up in 2006 and 2007.
After Nadal won the first two sets it looked as though Federer had been dethroned. But the Swiss would not go down without a fight. After a clinical tiebreak win for him in the third, the fourth set tiebreak provided plenty of drama. Nadal had his first championship point up 6-7 on the Federer serve. But the maestro saved it with a bullet out wide the Nadal forehand.
A sublime down-the-line pass from Nadal set up another, before an equally superb backhand pass from Federer saved that one. He then clinched the mini-break before a return long from Nadal handed him the set. A titanic tussle eventually saw Nadal break to go up 8-7 and serve for the match. As the light faded on Centre Court, a forehand from Federer faded too into the net, crowning Nadal with his first Wimbledon title.
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