For four consecutive years from 2005 to 2008, Roger Federer’s bid to become the sixth man to complete the Career Grand Slam was ended by Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros.
So, when the four-time defending champion fell to Robin Soderling in the fourth round in 2009, Federer knew he had a great chance to finally break through in the French capital. One day after Nadal’s loss, Federer met former World No. 2 Tommy Haas for a place in the quarter-finals.
The Mutua Madrid Open champion entered the contest on an eight-match winning streak and had won seven straight ATP Head2Head clashes against Haas, but it was the German who opened the match in inspired form to increase Federer’s nerves on Court Philippe-Chatrier.
“He wasn’t taking full command of his opportunities,” said Haas. “He was making a few more unforced errors than usual, and his forehand wasn’t firing on all cylinders.”
[TENNIS AT HOME]
Despite a strong serving performance from Federer in the first set, Haas dictated rallies from the baseline with his forehand and served with power and precision in the tie-break to earn a one-set lead. He then doubled his advantage by taking the second set, rallying with Federer from the back of the court and extracting crucial errors in the 12th game to move one set from victory.
After three consecutive finals between Nadal and Federer, the Parisian crowd were beginning to imagine the prospect of losing both men from the draw in a 24-hour period. Those thoughts were magnified when the match reached its most crucial point in the third set.
As Haas continued to pile the pressure on Federer’s shoulders, the German earned break point at 3-4, 30/40 on the 13-time Grand Slam champion’s serve. If Haas could convert his opportunity, he would serve for the match.
Federer, who had struggled to find his best level on his forehand, held his nerve to not only survive, but turn the match on its head. Haas returned Federer’s second serve with interest, attacking his opponent’s backhand with a cross-court reply. But Federer had other ideas, shuffling his feet to strike a pinpoint inside-out forehand winner just inside the tramline.
“When I hit that forehand to save a break point at 3-4 in the third, I had the feeling it could be a turning point in the match,” said Federer.
The 58-time tour-level titlist held serve and claimed back-to-back games to force the match to a fourth set. From there, Federer won 12 of 14 games to cruise to the finish line. It proved to be a crucial victory for Federer, who overcame Gael Monfils, Juan Martin del Potro and Soderling to lift the Coupe des Mousquetaires for the first time.
With his Roland Garros triumph, Federer joined Fred Perry, Don Budge, Rod Laver, Roy Emerson and Andre Agassi as the sixth man to complete the Career Grand Slam. The win also drew the Swiss level with Pete Sampras’ record haul of 14 Grand Slam titles.