Normally when you look at player match-ups, you typically evaluate the strength and speed of forehands and backhands, how comfortable a player is coming to the net, or how quick they are around the court.
All of that is secondary in this rodeo.
When Roger Federer battles Hyeon Chung on Rod Laver Arena at 7.30pm on Friday night, the length of the rally will be the dominant theme.
Roger will surely dominate the shorter rallies. Chung will perform significantly better in the longer ones. Whoever gets the other to bend to their own intentions will win the match.
Federer has won 518 points en route to the semifinals, losing 415. That means he has won just 55.5 per cent of all points he has played. Chung has won 556 and lost 453, giving him a 55.1 per cent advantage.
Day 12 preview: First take, big stakes
It’s amazing that if you tip a 50-50 battle just five percentage points in your favor in our sport, you own the world.
When you watch Federer play, you remember the longer, more spectacular points. His flashy forehand, his improved backhand, his frequent forays forward to the net. What you don’t remember, what doesn’t transfer from short-term memory to long-term memory, are his short points.
North of seven out of every 10 points Federer has played at the 2018 Australian Open have been in the 0-4 shot range – meaning Federer has hit a maximum of just two shots in the rally. Does he like this? You bet he does.
Roger Federer: 2018 Australian Open first five matches
Federer’s specialty is the short rallies. He has won 65 more points than he has lost in the 0-4 shot range, is +28 in the 5-8 shot range, and is just +10 in the longer rallies of nine shots or more.
Federer will want to strike early against Chung. Federer is king of the short, while Chung has smashed his way to the semis by being a lot better in the longer exchanges.
Hyeon Chung: 2018 Australian Open first five matches
Chung has played 166 long rallies to the semis; Federer has played less than half that, at 82. Chung has extended 16 per cent of all rallies to nine shots and beyond, while Federer is at nine per cent – very different pathways to the same finish line.
As you watch Friday night’s match, it’s important to understand that with each successive shot hit in the rally, the odds of who wins it slightly changes. The more balls in the court, the more Chung’s percentages will rise. Federer’s job is to attack first and ask questions later.
Chung’s serve is not in the same league as Federer’s so far this tournament.
Federer will look to dine on Chung’s slower serve to facilitate keeping points shorter. If Federer is feeling it, Chung’s second serve will be ideal for the SABR – the extreme half-volley return approach that Federer introduced in 2015 at the Cincinnati Masters 1000 event.
Chung’s average first serve speed is 9km/h slower than the average of Federer’s first five opponents. Federer is going to like that.
Even better for the Swiss, Chung’s second serve average speed is significantly slower than what he has been used to returning. The average 2nd serve speed of Federer’s five opponents so far in Melbourne is 160 km/h. Chung’s is just 139km/h.
Ideal for the SABR (sneak attack by Roger).
Average serve speeds: Federer opponents & Chung v Sandgren
here are so many indicators pointing towards a straight-sets victory for Federer. Specifically, the Swiss star has the ability to play an abundance of short rallies and climb up Chung’s second serve tree and break all the branches.
PREDICTION: Federer in three sets
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