Australian Open 2020

Australian Open 2020: Records keep mounting, as Roger Federer cruises to Round 3

Seeds Berrettini, Dimitrov, Paire lose five-set thrillers: Briton Evans also out

Marianne Bevis
By Marianne Bevis
Roger Federer
Roger Federer (Photo: Marianne Bevis)

By the time six-time Australian Open champion, Roger Federer, struck the first ball of his 2020 campaign, he had already notched up another significant number. He became the first to mark 900 weeks in the top 10.

Since breaking into the top 10 in May 2002, the mighty Swiss has spent a record 310 weeks at No1 and 218 weeks at No2 and No3—his current ranking. And in winning his first match in Melbourne, against Steve Johnson, Federer extended his run since 2003 of never losing a Major first-round match.

That win took him to the second round in a record 21st straight Australian appearance, and he was now bidding to maintain his record of always making the third round in this tournament. Indeed he had fallen short of the semis only twice in Australia since 2003.

To keep that record ticking over, the Swiss had to play a tricky opponent in world No41 Filip Krajinovic, a former No26 who made two finals last year after working back from assorted hand and foot injuries.

The Serb can bring all-court ability in a fast game, the kind of tennis to test brain cells as well as legs. However, Krajinovic had suffered a tough opening few days in Melbourne after his first match was postponed to Tuesday by the rain, and he then needed almost four hours and a 7-5 fifth set to beat Quentin Halys. He would, without doubt, feel that in his body—and all before facing a Federer in blistering form.

The Swiss raced to a 5-0 lead in a quarter of an hour before Krajinovic fended off a bagel set with a good love hold. But the set was done in under 20 minutes with a Federer love hold, 6-1.

The No3’s surge continued into the second set, as he passed Krajinovic both wings when the Serb attempted to move up a gear with more net plays. A quick break was followed by a quick hold, 2-0. However, Krajinovic persisted with some bold and attractive attacking tennis, and held to love.

And come the sixth game, it earned Krajinovic a break chance—snuffed out by a Swiss ace. Not deterred, the Serb continued to press, waiting for the slightest slip in form by the Swiss, and took full advantage to break in the eighth, 4-4.

But the former champion responded immediately, lifted his intensity in the face of some impressive net play from Krajinovic, and broke again. The pace between them was fast and unrelenting, but the 38-year-old Swiss had the edge, and also had the second set, 6-4, in under an hour. Krajinovic had posted 90 percent accuracy on first serve for the two sets, but Federer’s read and return were too fast and accurate.

In the third set, too, Federer got an early break via a long opening game, and after the third game, the Serb showed that inevitable wear and tear. He took a medical time out for his right elbow, but it simply delayed the inevitable. A love hold from Federer heralded four straight games and match, 6-1, with 42 winners to just 14 unforced errors.

John McEnroe asked Federer, in his on-court interview, whether he had felt at all sorry for his opponent. The Swiss paused, and admitted with a smile: “Yes, a little bit.”

He also conceded that he knew Krajinovic was tired. But he also stressed:

“I am very happy. It is a great start to the season so far. I am feeling really relaxed out on the court. I trained hard and you hope it pays off and not that it was all for nothing this week. I am happy, I am still going, and I am looking forward to the next one.”

His next one will be intriguing indeed. For it will not be against the expected seed, Hubert Hurkacz, but the unseeded Australian, John Millman. Intriguing, because just 18 months ago, the popular No47 from Brisbane beat a heat-exhausted Federer in the fourth round of the US Open in a 3hr 35mins four-setter.

The Aussie had been no walkover in their other two matches either, and his fearsome fitness and fighting spirit will require the best of Federer again. The Swiss said:

“I think the next match is really going to be a test for me because John is… fit like a fiddle. I’ve lost to him in the past in a best-of-five-set match. I almost lost to him in Brisbane, as well, the first time I played against him. He’s from this country, so naturally also it’s going to be different intensity. I think this is going to be a good test for me.”

Even so, Federer will garner plenty Melbourne support, and will be favoured to make the third round yet again, which incidentally could set another new record: a 100th match-win in the tournament. Already, the Swiss is the only man to win 100 matches at a Major—he owns 101 wins at Wimbledon.

Millman’s was not the only upset in this top half of the draw on a packed Wednesday that was again concluded with rain and under closed show-courts.

No8 seed Matteo Berrettini was the highest-ranked player to lose, in five sets, 7-6, 6-4, 4-6, 2-6, 7-5, to world No100 Tennys Sandgren. Fellow American, Tommy Paul, also pulled off a five-set upset when he beat No18 seed Grigor Dimitrov, 6-4, 7-6, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, and he will next play the man who put out No13 seed Denis Shapovalov in the first round, Marton Fucsovics, ranked just 67.

One of the most dangerous unseeded men in the draw, 2018 Australian Open finalist Marin Cilic, is ranked at 39 after coping with injuries during 2019, but he survived a tough three and a half hour five-set thriller against No21 seed, Benoit Paire, 6-2, 6-7, 3-6, 6-1, 7-6. He next faces one of the form men of the moment, No9 seed Roberto Bautista Agut, who came from a set down to Michael Mmoh, 5-7, 6-2, 6-4, 6-1.

The other seed to go out was No30, Briton Dan Evans, who had put in such a sterling effort at the ATP Cup and then to come back from two sets down in the first round in Melbourne. He lost to unseeded Japanese, 6-4, 6-3, 6-2, who now has the dubious honour of playing No2 seed and defending champion, Novak Djokovic.

The seven-time champion, who dropped a set in a rusty opening match, found his incisive form with a vengeance to beat another Japanese man, wildcard Tatsuma Ito, 6-1, 6-4, 6-2.

No12 seed Fabio Fognini survived a raucous four-hours-plus on Margaret Court Arena to win a deciding match tie-break in the fifth against Jordan Thompson, and will next play No22 seed Guido Pella. These two, with Federer, are the only remaining seeds in this quarter of the draw.

In the other quarter of this half, Djokovic was joined by No6 seed, and last year’s semi-finalist, Stefanos Tsitsipas, who advanced without playing a ball after Philipp Kohlschreiber withdrew injured. But he will now play Milos Raonic, seeded 32, after the Canadian beat Cristian Garin in straight sets.

Dusan Lajovic, seeded 24 after becoming one of the stand-out players in Serbia’s ATP Cup victory, has yet to drop a set on his way to a third-round meeting against No14 seed Diego Schwartzman, who has also cruised through two matches.

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