This magician masters every trick in the book

It is Roger Federer's ability to fashion the right shot at precisely the right time that sets him apart as a top-level player

Roger Federer is a magician. At the right time, he comes up with the right trick. And yesterday's win over Fernando Gonzalez was a perfect example of Federer's conjuring at its best. I'm not just talking about his play, which we all know can be mesmerising, beautiful, so powerful in all areas. I'm talking about the specific ability to come up with a perfect shot to win a significant point that steers the match his way or keeps him resolutely on course towards victory.

Only a few people in the history of tennis achieve and retain that ability for long periods in their careers. Laver, Borg, Sampras and Agassi spring to mind. All great champions. Federer is proving himself a great champion.

For my money, the magic timing in the first set came with Federer at 6-5 up and Gonzalez serving at deuce. That game – and the set – can still go any way at all. Federer hits a wonderful forehand passing volley for advantage. That's timing. The pressure all shifts to Gonzalez, who makes an unforced error. Federer is a set up and in command.

Thirty minutes later it's 2-0. Gonzalez did not play badly. He can take a lot of credit from the match. But when he's hitting the best ball he's got and finding it's still not enough, it can be a little dispiriting. That's what often happens when you're playing Federer, who produced more magic – on his serve, at 5-5 in the third – to up the pressure. The first point was won with a 115mph ace. Then he hit a 121mph ace. Then a 124mph ace. Then a 125mph serve, forehand winner. Game. 6-5.

And even when Gonzalez responded wonderfully to go 6-6 and into a tie-break, Federer picked his time to turn the screw. The volley at 5-2 to go 6-2 and earn a string a match points – only one was needed, and aced – was the magician at work.

One interesting detail from yesterday, which might just give the rest of the guys a glimmer of hope that Federer is fallible, was an inconsistent toss on serve. For a while it seemed to be veering very slightly left, and that took a bit of power off. He corrected it but I'd guess that might be something his coach, Tony Roche, might want to look at. It's always best to identify even the smallest problems before they become any bigger.

Next up for Federer is Lleyton Hewitt, in a semi-final scheduled for tomorrow. Hewitt is a street fighter to Federer's magician, as he showed in beating Feliciano Lopez yesterday. He leaps around all over the place utilising his superb footwork, the best in the game, allowing him to make his shots, over and over. He's a stayer, a battler, the kind of guy you'd want in your foxhole in a war. He'd jump out of his shoes for the cause. Quite how he's going to handle Federer for a place in the final, we don't yet know. It's going to be a clash of styles, and intriguing to watch.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
i100

Other places that have held independence referendums
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur
film

It scooped up an unprecedented 11 Academy Awards when it was first remade in 1959

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

Arts and Entertainment
Blossoming love: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie, in 'Magic in the Moonlight'
film

Actors star in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

News
news

News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
Arts and Entertainment
Maxine Peake plays Hamlet at Manchester's Royal Exchange
theatreReview: Maxine Peake brings emotional ferocity to Shakespeare's starring part
News
London's New Year's Eve fireworks event is going to be ticketed this year for the first time at £10 a head
news

Revellers will have to pay to see New Year's Eve fireworks in London

News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
Travel
travel

...and the perfect time to visit them

Sport
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)
football

Newcastle winger reveals he has testicular cancer - and is losing his trademark long hair as a result

News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
news

Man's attempt to avoid being impounded heavily criticised

Life and Style
tech

Try putting that one on your Christmas list
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week