Six time champion Roger Federer recovered from a break down in the final set and staring elimination in the final set tie-break, reeled off six consecutive points to avenge his loss at the U.S. Open fourth round to the Australian John Millman. As expected Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are also through, joined by 2014 champion Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland.
38 year old Federer dropped serve in the second game of the match but broke serve only for the 47th ranked Brisbane native to break in the tenth game at love to seal the opener 6-4. Federer struggled with timing but in the second set tie-break raised his level to win 7-2. One break of serve was all the pair needed to to force the deciding fifth set.
Millman was the first to break in the third game but the Swiss maestro broke back in the eighth game before it went to a tie-break, a new invention at this year’s event for the fifth set where first to ten points wins the match. Millman took command of the tie-break to lead 8-4 aided by some excellent winners and some nervous shots by his illustrious opponent. Just when all looked lost, Federer somehow managed to fight back taking the next six points and sealed it with a forehand winner which an out of position Millman could only watch. It was Federer’s 100th win in Melbourne and coupled with his 100 wins at Wimbledon he is the only player in Open Era with 100 wins at two majors.
In contrrast to all the drama, seven time champion Novak Djokovic and the top seeded Rafael Nadal, winner in 2009, lost only seven games each to enter the second week at the first grand slam of the year. Djokovic trounced Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan, 6-3,6-2,6-2, while Nadal won the all Spanish match up 6-1,6-2,6-4 on Rod Laver Arena in tough conditions in the afternoon session. The 2014 champion, Stanislas Wawrinka who needed five sets to beat Andreas Seppi progressed after John Isner retired with injury with Wawrinka leading 6-4,4-1.
Federer next faces the Hungarian Marton Fucsovics who demolished the fatigued American Tommy Paul, 6-1,6-1,6-4. The 22 year old American ranked 80th in the world had taken sets to outlast the Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov in five sets and that took it’s toll on the youngster.
Also advancing on Friday was the former world number three Milos Raonic of Canada who caused the biggest upset of the tournament beating the sixth seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-5,6-4,7-6(2). Tsitsipas who had won the season ending in finale in London two months ago and who had a walkover from the German Phillip Kohlschreiber in the second round wilted under a barrage of aces from Raonic. Raonic who had reached the last four in Melbourne four years ago and then lost in the Wimbledon finals that year, on each occasion to Andy Murray. In an all American match up Tennys Sandgren had a surprisingly easy 6-4,6-4,6-4 win, while the 14th seeded Argentine Diego Schwartzman beat the Serb Dusan Lajovic, seeded 24th, 6-2,6-3,7-6(7).
Another welcome return to form was the 2018 finalist and the 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic of Croatia. Cilic who had reached a career high no. 3 in the rankings then after losing the Wimbledon 2017 final and 2018 Australian Open final to Roger Federer on both occasion, avenged his five loss to the Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut 6-7(3),6-4,6-0,5-7,6-3. Cilic next plays Milos Raonic of Canada in the round of sixteen in a battle of the two biggest servers in the men’s game.
Fifth seeded Austrian Dominic Thiem who had taken five sets to beat the local lad Alex Bolt, inexplicably dropped the third set when it looked like a straightforward three set sail against the 29th seeded American Taylor Fritz. Thiem won 6-2,6-4,6-7(5),6-4 to set up a fourth round match against the Frenchman Gael Monfils, seeded 10th. Monfils, for his part, straight setted the mercurial Latvian, Ernests Gulbis.
The seventh seeded German, Alexander Zverev had no problems dispatching the 2009 semi-finalist Fernando Verdasco of Spain 6-2,6-2,6-4 and next faces the red hot Russian Andrey Rublev who overcame the loss of the first set to beat the eleventh seeded David Goffin of Belgium 2-6,7-6(3),6-4,7-6(4). It was the Russian’s eleventh straight win of the year having won two ATP 250 events in Doha and then in Adelaide.
Daniil Medvedev who has been tipped to become the first player to win a grand slam for a player born in the 1990s, beat the young Australian Alexei Popyrin on Rod Laver Arena 6-4,6-3,6-2. The Italian Fabio Fognini, seeded twelveth and who had required five sets in the first two rounds against the American Reilly Opelka and the Australian Jordan Thompson, booked his place in the last sixteen after a 7-6(0),6-2,6-3 win over the Argentine Guido Pella.
Australia will have a representative in the last sixteen as the enigmatic Nick Kyrgios almost blew a two sets and a break lead against the Russian Karen Khachanov on the Melbourne Arena. Kyrgios looked set for a straights win as he took a 4-2 lead in the third set but the 16th seeded Khachanov who had needed five sets to get past little known Swede Mikael Ymer fought back bravely to take the third and fourth set in tie-breaks to force the decider.
Kyrgios who has won his last seven matches decided by a tie-break went 7-8 down and the match was on the Russian’s racket. Kyrgios drilled a back hand winner down the line and then took the next two points courtesy of unforced errors from Khachanov in front of adoring Aussies fans. Kyrgios won 6-2,7-6(5),6-7(6),6-7(7),7-6(8) to set up a mouth watering match up against the Spaniard Rafael Nadal on Monday. For the record the match lasted four hours and twenty four minutes.
Following is the line up for the round of sixteen matches with my pick mentioned first:-
Novak Djokovic (2) v. Diego Schwartzman (14)
Milos Raonic (32) v. Marin Cilic (-) Roger Federer (3) v. Martin Fucsovics (-)
Tennys Sandgren (-) v. Fabio Fognini (12) Alexander Zverev (7) v. Andrey Rublev
(17) Daniil Medvedev (5) v. Stanislas Wawrinka
(16) Dominic Thiem (5) v. Gael Monfils (10) Rafael Nadal (1) v. Nick Kyrgios (23).
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: sportzcosmos@]