Johnson On Federer: 'He Kind Of Suffocates The Court'
American Steve Johnson faced a tough task on Monday, competing against 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer in the first round of the Australian Open. After his 3-6, 2-6, 2-6 loss, the World No. 75 explained what is difficult about playing the Swiss superstar.
“He’s earned the respect of almost all of his competitors knowing that when he gets a lead, he kind of brings the margins in just even a bit more and more and more and kind of suffocates the court,” Johnson said. “A lot of points are won and lost on his terms. When he’s playing well, he’s playing well.”
Johnson carried momentum into their third ATP Head2Head meeting (Federer now leads 3-0) after winning an ATP Challenger Tour event in Bendigo last week. This was Federer’s first match of the season. But the 38-year-old showed little rust, striking 34 winners to only 20 unforced errors.
“It’s definitely not the draw I was hoping for, but when you’re not seeded, you’re at the mercy of the draw and [I was] unfortunate to play him first round. Thought maybe I could come out and try to catch him when he hadn’t played many matches… but [he] came out and he was clicking pretty well,” Johnson said. “I thought he played extremely well early in all three sets and any chance he gets to get ahead, it’s going to be tough to play from behind.”
Federer broke Johnson in the American’s first service game of each set, which made it even more difficult for Johnson to try to sink his teeth into the match.
“I think some of it is mentality and some of it is just being there,” Johnson said of what makes Federer a strong frontrunner. “He’s won a thousand matches, he’s won more than that. But he’s won a lot of matches and he knows what it takes.”