20-time grand slam champion Roger Federer was on the brink of exiting the Australian Open no fewer than seven times before staging an epic comeback in a five-set thriller against Tennys Sandgren.
The 38-year-old Swiss Maestro was from from his best form on the Rod Laver Arena and appeared at times to be struggling with an injury of some sort. Yet he was still able to come out on top to win 6-3, 2-6, 2-6, 7-6(6), 6-3, against the giant killing world No.100. Who knocked out seeds Matteo Berrettini and Fabio Fognini earlier in the tournament.
“You gotta get lucky sometimes I tell you that because with those seven match points you’re not in control.” Federer said during his on court interview.
“I was just hoping that he was not going to smash the ball on that one point. Keep the ball in play, maybe miss one or two.’
“I think he played his match and I got incredibly lucky today.”
In what was a far from normal encounter in Melbourne, there was stages where it looked as if the former world No.1 was totally out of contention. Moving gingerly around the court and unable to find a way to dispose his rival, who was playing tennis at a level well above his ranking. Throughout the three-and-a-half hour clash, Federer was only able to break twice. Doing so in the first and fifth set. The roller-coaster performance saw him hit 44 winners to 56 unforced errors.
Alarm bells for the Federer camp started to ring during the third set. In a rare occurrence, the 38-year-old got into an argument with the umpire after receiving a code violation. A line official heard him swearing and reported it to the umpire. According to an ESPN commentator it was “an R-rated German word”.
“If you heard it so clearly why didn’t you call it,” a frustrated Federer said to umpire Marijana Veljovic. “Is she 100 per cent sure. She is from Switzerland right?
“She is sure but you’re not sure and she is the same distance. Give me a break.”
Following the dispute proceedings were halted after Federer left the court to take a medical time-out. Making it clear that the 20-time grand slam champion was suffering from some sort or problem. The main issues concerned the right side of his open stance as he looked tentative hitting certain shots.
“I’ve played a lot of tennis throughout my life and sometimes you feel a little bit funny. I started to feel my groin and then my leg started to tighten up.” The world No.3 later explained.
“I really don’t like calling a trainer because it is a sign of weakness.’
“In the end, I was like ‘whatever’ I was going to go off and have some extra treatment on the leg. People know I’m probably not 100%.”
“It wasn’t bad enough where I thought it was going to get worse.” He added.
Dispute the issue, Federer continued to fight on the court until the end. Refusing to retire from a tennis match for the first time in his career. It looked as if it would not be enough against a very in-form Sandgren who illustrated some of his best tennis. Remaining mentally strong and sticking to his game plan, Sandgren rallied to a game away from one of the biggest wins of his career.
However, it was not to be for the American. Leading 5-4 in the fourth frame, a tense Sandgren had three match points against the Federer serve, but failed to convert all of them. Reviving hopes of a comeback by the Swiss player. With all to play for the third seed found a fresh burst of energy as he continued to fight by saving a further four match points in the tiebreaker. Prompting a huge roar from the crowd. After being on the verge of going out, Federer managed to force proceedings into a decider after a shot from his opponent drifted out.
Avoiding a shock exit from Melbourne, Federer continued to gain momentum heading into the decider. Much to the annoyance of his frustrated rival. Weathering the storm, the critical break occurred six games into the fifth frame. Hitting a shot deep to the baseline, an error from Sandgren granted Federer the break for a 4-2 lead. From then, he cruised towards the finish line of what was a difficult and testing match. Serving for a place in the final, Federer prevailed on his first match point opportunity with the help of a serve down the middle of the court which Sandgren couldn’t return over the net.
“As the match went on I started to feel better again. All the pressure went away and I just tried to play. I got a little lucky to get the break (in the fifth set) and I served really well for most of the match towards the end.” He reflected,
“I don’t deserve this one (to win) but I’m very very happy.”
It is the first time Federer has won two five-set matches in the same grand slam tournament since the 2017 US Open. He is the oldest player to reach the last four in Melbourne since Ken Rosewall back in 1977 and the oldest to do so at any grand slam tournament since Jimmy Connors back in 1991.
Awaiting Federer next will be either defending champion Novak Djokovic or Canada’s Milos Raonic.
“I got nothing to do the next day and then I play at night (on Thursday). You do feel better in a couple of days and you never know again. I’m lucky to be here and I might as well make the most of it.” He concluded.
‘He Needs To Bulk Up’ – Tennis Great Cast Doubt On Alex De Minaur’s French Open Chances
John Newcombe believes it will be a few more years before the world No.27 reaches his peak.
One of Australia’s most decorated Grand Slam champions of all time believes compatriot Alex de Minaur still has a way to go before he poses a threat at the French Open.
Former world No.1 John Newcombe believes the 21-year-old needs to improve on his physicality before reaching his peak on the surface. De Minaur comes into the Grand Slam high in confidence after reaching the quarter-finals of the US Open in what was his best performance at a major so far in his career. He was knocked out of the tournament by eventual winner Dominic Thiem.
Although De Minaur’s preparations for the clay took a blow last week after he lost the first round of the Italian Open to German qualifier Dominik Koepfer. The world No.27 had a set and 3-0 lead over Koepfer before losing. He is not playing in any tournament this week leading up to Roland Garros.
“I’d have to see the draw, how it comes out, but it will be hard work for him,” Newcombe told the Australian Associated Press about de Minaur’s chances in Paris.
“He’s going to have to do a hell of a lot of work. If he got to the quarters, it would be a terrific effort.
“He’s not going to be physically where he needs to be, just bulking up a bit, until he’s 25, 26.
“But he’s got a good all-court game and he understands the game well, so there’s no reason he can’t be a pretty good late maturer (on clay).”
This year’s clay-court major will be the fourth time the Australian has played in the main draw. In his three previous appearances, de Minaur has only won one match which was against Bradley Klahn last year.
During a recent interview with atptour.com, the Next Gen star gave little away about his expectations for the clay this year given the revised schedule. The French Open is taking place just two weeks after New York due to the COVID-19 pandemic which brought the sport to a five-month standstill earlier this year.
“Realistically, you never know until you step out and play matches. It’s a very quick turnaround, something that has never happened to play such an important event after a slam. I’m taking it all in, doing as best as I can and we will have to see,” he said.
De Minaur has won three ATP titles and has scored four wins over top 10 players so far in his career. He is currently the only player from his country ranked in the world’s top 40 on the ATP Tour.
Novak Djokovic claims his 36th Masters 1000 title in Rome
Novak Djokovic came back from 0-3 down in the first set to beat Diego Schwartzman 7-5 6-3 after 1 hour and 53 minutes in the final of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia at the Foro Italico in Rome. Djokovic claimed his fifth title in the Eternal City and his 36th Masters 1000 trophy and his 81st career title. Djokovic has become the oldest Rome champion.
The World number 1 player extended his record in 2020 to an impressive record of 31 wins in 32 matches, including four titles at the Australian Open, Dubai, the Western and Southern Open in New York and Rome.
Djokovic dropped his serve three times and earned five breaks of serve.
Djokovic wasted a game point and dropped his serve, when he netted his backhand. Schwartzman hit four service winners in the second game to consolidate the break for 2-0.
Djokovic made a backhand error to face a break point in the third game. Schwartzman earned his second break to open up a 3-0 after 18 minutes, as Djokovic netted another backhand. Djokovic earned a break point chance and conveted it after a double fault from Schwartzman.
Djokovic held serve at 15 with an ace in the fifth game to claw his way back to 2-3. The Serbian star forced an error from Schwarzman to earn a breka point in the sixth game and got the break, when the Argentine netted a forehand. Djokovic held serve at 15 to take a 4-3 in the seventh game. Schwartzman hit a forehand down the line winner at 30-15 in the eighth game and held serve with a service winner to draw level to 4-4.
Djokovic saved a break point in the ninth game with a volley winner and held serve to take a 5-4 lead. Schwartzman saved a set point with a forehand winner and drew level to 5-5 after two deuces with a backhand the line winner.
Djokovic held serve after a deuce to take a 6-5 lead forcing Schwartzman to serve to stay in the set for the second time. Djokovic converted his third set point to win the opening set 7-5 after 70 minutes.
Schwartzman earned an early break at the start of the second set. Djokovic got the break back to draw level to 1-1 when Schwartzman sent a forehand wide.
Djokovic hit a winner at the net to hold serve in the third game. Schwartzman hit four winners in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2.
Djokovic saved two break points in the fifth game and held serve with a service winner to take a 3-2 lead. Schwartman held serve with a drop shot. Djokovic won his service game at love to take a 4-3 lead and broke serve at love in the eighth game with a backhand down the line winner. Djokovic held serve at love to close out the final.
“”It was a great week. A very challenging week. I don’t think I played my best tennis throughout the entire week, but I think I found my best tennis when I needed it the most in the decisive moments today, yesterday and in every match. That definitely makes me very satisfied and proud that I managed to find that fifth gear when it was most needed. Turning to Paris, I could not ask for a better tournament here in Rome. Another big title and i super pleased with it”, said Djokovic.
Stan Wawrinka Parts Way With Long-Time Coach Norman
Stan the man is on the look out for a new coach for the first time in almost a decade.
It is the end of an era for three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka after he announced his split from coach Magnus Norman.
The former world No.3 confirmed on Monday that the two have decided to end their collaboration with ‘mutual consent’ following eight years working together on the Tour. Norman was last with Wawrinka at the Italian Open last week where the Swiss player lost his opening match to rising star Lorenzo Musetti. It is unclear as to exactly when the decision was made.
“After 8 great years together Magnus Norman and I have decided to part ways by mutual consent. We have had an amazingly strong, enjoyable and hugely successful partnership. We reached the height of this sport together and I want to thank him for helping me win everything that I could ever dream of winning,” Wawrinka said in a statement posted on Instagram.
44-year-old Norman is a former world No.2 player himself who reached the final of the French Open back in 2000. During his coaching career, he guided Wawrinka to various milestones in his career that includes 13 ATP titles with three of those being at Grand Slam level. The Swede has also been recognized by the ATP for his work with Wawrinka after winning the inaugural Coach of the Year award back in 2016.
“He’s been a great coach, friend and mentor and will always be a dear friend,” Wawrinka said in a tribute.
“I want to publicly thank him for all his hard work, dedication and commitment in making me a better player over the years. Winning three grand slams have been a life changing experience for me and I could not have done that without him. I wish him all the best in his next chapter in his life.”
The announcement from the world No.17 comes a week before the French Open starts. Wawrinka has been training on the clay for the past few weeks after deciding against travelling to North America to play in the US Open. Instead, he played in a couple Challenger events and won a trophy in Prague last month. Overall, he has achieved a win-loss record of 15-3 so far in 2020.
It is unclear as to who will be replacing Norman in Wawrinka’s team.
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