17-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer worked his way past 20-year-old qualifier Noah Rubin on Wednesday, defeating the American 7-5, 6-3, 7-6 (3) in just over two hours in the second round of the 2017 Australian Open.
The Swiss number two was tested by the world number 200, who played with energy from the baseline. Federer looked vulnerable at times, as the young American controlled many rallies with his strong forehands.
Rubin kept the 35-year-old on his toes in the first set, and the former junior Wimbledon champion even held two set points up 5-2 in the third set before Federer roared back to take the match in a tiebreak.
Federer’s serve, namely his 17 aces, kept him in many points and games, and the 35-year-old Swiss’ experience was just enough to help him over the finish line.
The match was far from routine, however, and the four-time Australian Open champion noted that he was happy to come through the match in straight sets.
“You know, it was a difficult first set,” Federer said. “Tricky third set, of course. I had to save a couple of set points. I know it could have gone different. I’m happy there. Like I said, I didn't know much about Noah Rubin going in except the info I got from my coaches. I was prepared. I was ready to battle. I was able to get the win, so I'm very happy.”
Despite the loss, Rubin remained positive after the match, noting how he will relish the experience of playing the Swiss great for a long time.
“I told him at the end of the match it was an honor to be out there with him because no matter what the outcome is, if he’s not the greatest he’s top two,” Rubin said. “He thanked me and said, ‘great match.’”
Rubin tests Federer in the third set but falls short
Both players got off to a good start on serve to open the second round match, with each holding through the first ten games. Federer could not get a good read on Rubin’s game, which is expected when competing against someone for the first time.
The Fed-Express got rolling late in the set, breaking Rubin in the 12th game to seal the first set, 7-5. The second set followed this narrative, with Federer breaking early before coasting to a 6-3 set and a two set to love advantage. However, the third set got much more interesting.
After the two routine sets, something changed in the third set. The 20-year-old American broke Federer in the second game before leaping out to a 3-0 lead. Suddenly, he had the four-time Australian Open champion on his heels, and the world number 200 was dictating the points.
In addition, the 35-year-old seemingly lost a step. Post-match, the 17-time Grand Slam champion admitted that he wasn’t moving as well at the end as he did in the beginning.
"I wasn't feeling as good (late) as in the beginning,” Federer said. “I definitely got a little lucky in that third set ... so it was good to fight through.”
Rubin continued to hold his serve, however, and soon enough, the American had two sets points on Federer. A shocked crowd on Rod Laver Arena wondered if another set was in store, but Federer had other ideas.
Unsurprisingly, the Swiss Maestro saved the set points, and all pressure swung back toward Rubin.
The pressure set in, and down a break, Federer finally broke the world number 200 to level the set at 5-5. From there, Federer could sense the finish line. The Swiss Maestro turned on the jets and cruised to victory, taking the tiebreak 7-3.
Federer impressed by the young American
Speaking to the press after the match, Federer gave Rubin much deserved credit after their battle, noting that the 20-year-old has a bright future ahead.
“On the return, I was impressed by his serve speed on the first and second serve,” Federer said. “I mean, he’s a smaller guy, but he was able to move the ball around nicely, with good consistency. Honestly, it was a nice second serve. I think it made it hard for me to get on the offensive early in the rally.”
“Then from the baseline, he was taking big cuts at the ball,” the 17 seed continued. “Yeah, I guess there is where I would have expected myself to play maybe that little bit better out of defense and into offense. There was a breeze on the court. I thought Rubin also played well. Made it difficult.”
Rubin, in turn, described his emotions playing against the Swiss great.
“There’s something about him,” Rubin said. “You just look and say, ‘Wow, okay, that’s Roger Federer.’ A couple of times in the first set, I just took a peek over to the other side.”
Swiss Maestro sets up marquee match against Berdych in third round
When the draws came out in Melbourne, many pointed to a possible Federer-Berdych clash in the third round. After two rounds, the battle has become official. Berdych defeated American Ryan Harrison to set up the match.
Federer owns a 16-6 head-to-head over the Czech number one, but Federer knows that the match will be tough. The two last played in the quarterfinals in Melbourne last year, with Federer defeating the Czech in straight sets.
“Well, I know I’ve got to lift my game a little bit,” Federer admitted. “But then again, I haven’t seen Tomas play a lot, to be honest. I didn’t see anything, basically. Let's put it that way. He was playing at the same time now.”
“He’s caused difficulties for me in the past on faster courts: Cincinnati, New York, Wimbledon, Olympics in Athens. I know what he’s got,” the Swiss number two continued. “I don’t need to tell you where he’s beaten me.”
“I’ve played him here, played him on many occasions, as well, when it went my way,” Federer said. “I just got to play on my terms and really be focused on my own service games to make sure I don't have any lapses there.”