Monday, January 23, 2017

On a day of upsets Roger Federer surives a 5 set thriller to reach his 13th quarter final at Aussie Open

You think he still wants to win? :D

Roger Federer dug in his heels to stop Kei Nishikori on Sunday at the Australian Open, rallying past the fifth seed 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 in three hours and 23 minutes. Federer secured a milestone 200th win over a Top 10 opponent, becoming the first active player to achieve the feat.

"He played his heart out and I thought he played a great match, I'm happy to be a part of it," said Federer. "He was hanging tough and playing really well on the big points. I was telling myself to stay calm and this is what I trained for in the offseason. This is a big moment for me in my career."

The four-time champion exhibited great resolve in fighting back for his 25th career five-set victory. He will feature in the quarter-finals at Melbourne Park for the 13th time in the last 14 years, with a date against Mischa Zverev awaiting on Tuesday. Federer won their previous two FedEx ATP Head2Head encounters, most recently on the grass of Halle in 2013.

Federer fired a staggering 83 winners, including 24 aces, while converting seven of 18 break chances. But it wasn't all smooth sailing for the 17th seed. Striking the ball with conviction and peppering the Federer backhand early and often, Nishikori burst out of the gates, breaking twice in a row for a 5-1 first-set lead. The Japanese was more aggressive in the initial stages, jumping on Federer's second serve and crashing the net frequently.

But the Swiss stayed the course, slowly chipping away at Nishikori's lead and eventually drawing level at 5-all. Nishikori would take the opener in a tie-break, but momentum had swung firmly in his opponent's corner. Federer streaked to a two-sets-to-one lead and later snatched a quick break for 2-0 in the decider, after Nishikori sent the match the distance. He would emerge victorious on his first match point with an emphatic overhead smash.

"I didn't expect him to play this well from the start and that put me on the back foot for the remainder of the match to some extent," added Federer. "But I was able to wrestle it back in my favour. I got myself into the match and started to play the good sets that I knew I could. The question was could I hang with Kei until the very end. I was able to do that, so I'm super happy.

"You have a game plan and he's got a game plan. Sometimes it doesn't match up the right way for you. He was quick out of the blocks. I was accepting it and moving on with it, trying to at least find some sort of a rhythm going into the second set... I was still upbeat about my chances after that first set. I think it gave me something coming back into that set actually."

But the Swiss stayed the course, slowly chipping away at Nishikori's lead and eventually drawing level at 5-all. Nishikori would take the opener in a tie-break, but momentum had swung firmly in his opponent's corner. Federer streaked to a two-sets-to-one lead and later snatched a quick break for 2-0 in the decider, after Nishikori sent the match the distance. He would emerge victorious on his first match point with an emphatic overhead smash.

Federer improved to 5-2 against Nishikori in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, meeting for the first time since the Swiss prevailed in their group stage match at the 2015 ATP Finals. The Japanese saw his three-match win streak in five-setters snapped, falling to 14-6 in his career. According to the FedEx ATP Performance Zone, his impressive 100-31 (.763) career record in deciding-set matches remains tops among all players in the Open Era. Learn More

"I'm really disappointed to lose like this, especially after I started really well," said Nishikori, who exited in the Aussie Open fourth round for the third time in five years. "I missed some chances from 5-2 in the first set and I think I let him come back. He was playing good tennis especially in the middle, the second and third sets. I maybe had some chances in fifth set to come back in the match, but he was way too strong."

Lucky #17 am I right?.  He was also playing on day 7 :).

This was such a huge test and Roger passed with flying colours (yeah ok it would have been even better if he won it in 4). 

But the key here is he won. I told myself I'll be happy if he gets past the 3rd round & Berdych after a 6 month lay off.  

But now that he's done this I am greedy and I want him to take the whole thing. 

I'm not even thinking about the next round yet. I'm just going to bask in the immeasurable joy that was this match.  

Which I will have the pleasure of watching an encore of this afternoon. 

 I did have hope in this match when Roger came back from a 1-5 deficit to take the first set to a tie-break despite the fact he lost it.  

After so many heartbreaking loses in 5-setters (the last time Federer won a 5 setter was 2013 Aussie Open against Tsonga) this just felt so good as a fan. I admit to getting a little teary as Rgoer served it out. 

Just pure unbridled happiness.  

What a way to wake up :).

Go for it Fed!.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Roger Federer is happy being the underdog at Aussie Open

Meticulous with his trade, articulate with his words; in a game of numbers, Roger Federer is selective in filtering which figures carry much – if any – bearing.

And he has to be. The Swiss great, making his return to the tour after a six-month layoff to heal his weary body, is a player whose name and legacy is awash with more numbers than any other.

Take the $67.8 million he netted last year in winnings and endorsements, despite missing more than half the season through injury. And the No.1 spot he occupies as the world’s most marketable sportsperson in 2016.

Take the 6000-strong throng of fans in Perth, which flocked just to watch a Hopman Cup practice session leading in to AO 2017.

While only reinforcing his influence on the sport, they are figures which matter little to the 35-year-old as he looks to build on a tally of a record 17 Grand Slam singles titles.

His seeding of No.17 – while afforded the caution it deserved had it pitted him against the likes of top seed Andy Murray or six-time champion Novak Djokovic as early as the third round – likewise carried scant weight.

It is the first time since Roland Garros 2001 he enters without a top-16 seeding next to his name at a major. But after a knee injury ended his streak of 65 straight appearances in Slams ahead of his Paris campaign last year – and subsequently ruled him out for the second half of the season – Federer sees it as a number which means nothing once the first ball is hit.

It is a long time since he has carried such an underdog status.

“Yeah, why not for a change? I mean, I prefer to be the favourite. Underdog is OK,” Federer said.

“As long as I'm healthy and I feel like I can go four, five sets, I can go many matches in a row, then I think it's going to be fun. If I feel like I'm in pain in the matches, then obviously it's no fun. Then it doesn't matter what your seeding or ranking is, it's always the same.

“But, no, it's a great draw because I'm in the draw. So for me I'm super pleased that I made it here, that I have an opportunity to win matches. How many remains to be seen. I'm cautious myself. So, yeah, clearly an underdog this time around.”

The Swiss will open against a qualifier at Rod Laver Arena on Monday night with another qualifier guaranteed of standing across the net from him in the second round, should he win.

From there, the task of claiming an unexpected fifth Australian Open crown, becomes profoundly more difficult. Should seedings carry true to form, he would have to upset four top-10 opponents in succession to do so.

In the third round, it would be 10th seed Tomas Berdych, followed by fifth seed Kei Nishikori, top seed Murray, fourth seed Stan Wawrinka and finally, second seed and six-time champion Djokovic.

“I went through a year where I didn't play any five-setters, an entire year. You could think that's a good thing for longevity, but it's not a good thing because you don't know how it feels to play a five-setter anymore,” Federer said when putting his draw in perspective.

“There's always new faces coming up every season. The guys, a lot of them, who played futures or challengers a year ago may be 300, next thing you know they're in the top 100.”

They’re numbers again that will vanish the moment he is welcomed back on to RLA. It is the longest stint on the sidelines he has endured.

“You miss the feeling of winning, walking onto a stadium, seeing the guys,” he said. “It's like an extended family to some extent anyway.

“You see faces you haven't seen in a while. It's just nice to see everybody again.”

It is a welcoming reception Federer will find difficult to quantify.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Coco Vandeweghe talks partnering with Martina Hingis in post 3rd round interview

Awww, the Aussie's clearly still love Hingis ♥. "You're in pretty safe hands with that girl on your side of the net" . Indeed. ♥♥

Martina Hingis & Coco Vandeweghe into 2nd round at Aussie Open

MELBOURNE, Australia - No.5 seeds Martina Hingis and CoCo Vandeweghe fought past Jelena Jankovic and Yanina Wickmayer in straight sets to ease into the second round of doubles at the Australian Open, 6-3, 6-4.

Playing in her second Grand Slam with Vandeweghe following the pair's run to last year's US Open semifinals, Hingis struggled with her opening service game and they had to bat away two break points. They struck late in the set, pouncing on Jankovic to grab the lone break to love.

Hingis and Vandeweghe kept up the momentum in the second, with Vandeweghe's powerful serves and booming groundstrokes complementing Hingis' fine net play perfectly. They raced ahead to a double break lead.

Jankovic and Wickmayer tried to hold on, breaking back to climb out of a 5-1 deficit and get up to 5-4, but it wasn't enough against the No.5 seeds who comfortably served out the match for a spot in the second round.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Roger Federer on court interview (3R) Australian Open

I like my treats and chocolate to Roger, but I certainly don't have your physique at 35. 

I'm with Jim Courier on this one, get out of here Roger Federer. :D.

Vintage Roger Federer rolls past Thomas Berdych to reach 4th round at Aussie Open

Roger Federer, the four-time former champion, hit top form on Rod Laver Arena on Friday night as the Swiss superstar received a standing ovation from the capacity crowd in booking his spot in the Australian Open fourth round.

In just his third tour-level match since mid-July 2016, the former World No. 1 blasted past No. 10 seed Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 in just 90 minutes. It was their seventh meeting at a major championship (Federer leads 5-2).

“I didn't expect this as such, to be honest, especially not this kind of a scoreline," said Federer. "Especially not having to save any break points, just always rolling on the serve. That was a big surprise to me. I think it was a great mental test for me to see if I could stay in the match – point for point. I was able to do that. That's where I'm just really happy that I was able to deliver that… It's wonderful. I'm really happy of course.”

Federer produced a masterclass in front of fellow all-time great Rod Laver, applying the pressure and keeping Berdych deep behind the baseline and unable to get into the match. After a third break of Berdych’s serve at the start of the second set, Federer seized control. Berdych was powerless in light of Federer’s backhand, first serve (won 39 of 41 points) and net (20 of 23 points) dominance.

Earlier in the day, fifth seed Kei Nishikori lost just eight of his first service points to beat qualifier and World No. 121 Lukas Lacko 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 in two hours and 11 minutes. The Japanese star has not lost to a player outside of the Top 100 in the Emirates ATP Ranking since the 2013 US Open, when he lost to then No. 179-ranked Daniel Evans in the first round.

“After 5-2 [in the second set] I think he stepped up a little more,” said Nishikori. “He was more attacking my ball [and] playing very solid. But I tried to stay focus. I still had two breaks up. I was serving really well today. I just play with confidence.

“For sure it's not going to be easy [facing Federer]. He was playing great tennis today. I watched only a few points. But it's always great to play Roger. It's a big challenge for me. I'm just happy to play him because I think we needed him on the tour. I’m happy to see him back 100 per cent.”

Federer leads Nishikori, his fourth-round opponent, 4-2 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series. He has won four titles at Melbourne Park - in 2004 (d. Marat Safin), 2006 (d. Marcos Baghdatis), 2007 (d. Fernando Gonzalez) and 2010 (d. Andy Murray) and has an 83-13 mark at the championship.

”I'm a big fan of (Kei’s) game," admitted Federer. "He's got one of the best backhands out there. I love how he can crush it down the line or crosscourt. He's got wonderful second serve returns. He's fast on his legs. Strong in his mind. I know how tough he is as the match goes along. He finds his range and his rhythm, he's tough to stop.”

I was really worried about this match, so this is so nice to see, especially considering his next opponent.  It only gets tougher from here, but great win for Fed. 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Roger Federer fights past qualifier faces Berdych next in Aussie Open 3rd round

Roger Federer has booked his place in the third round of Australian Open 2017 with a 7-5 6-3 7-6(3) win over American Noah Rubin.

Federer, playing in his 18th Australian Open main draw, was the heavy favourite going in to the match, but Rubin pushed the four-time winner all the way in an engrossing tussle.

Aggressive from the off, Federer attempted to unsettle the 20-year-old qualifier. However, Rubin stood his ground, saving numerous break points in an entertaining first set. It looked as though the pair were heading for a tiebreak when Federer got the break he needed to take the opening set 7-5.

The second set followed a now-familiar pattern, with Federer attacking the Rubin serve. This time the American succumbed early, broken in the sixth game of the match to surrender the set.

The third was a much tighter affair.

Rubin broke at the start, and looked to be taking the match to a fourth set. However, Federer turned up the pressure while trailing 3-5 and managed to force the break.

With the set headed to a tiebreak, the momentum swung in the Swiss maestro’s favour, and he secured the set, and the match.

"He's a great fighter ... he's aggressive on the ball and I think he had the upper hand on the baseline," Federer said after the match. "I think my serving kept me in the match today ... I'm happy I got through somehow.

"I wasn't feeling as good (late) as in the beginning. I definitely got a little lucky in that third set ... so it was good to fight through."

In a re-match of the 2016 quarterfinal, Federer will face 10th seed Tomas Berdych in the third round.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Martina Hingis backs Daria Gavrilova to go deep at Aussie Open

Five-time slam winner Martina Hingis has expressed her admiration for "energiser bunny" Daria Gavrilova as the Australian ace prepares for her first major as a seeded player.

Gavrilova's run to the fourth round last year was one of the stories of the Australian Open, which the popular 22-year-old backed up with a solid year on tour.

Wins over world No.1 Angelique Kerber, Simona Halep and Petra Kvitova pushed Gavrilova into the world's top 25 players and at Melbourne Park she'll play as the 22nd seed.

Like much of Australia, Hingis was entranced by Gavrilova's 2016 run - but she wasn't surprised.

Hingis worked with and mentored Gavrilova as a teenager at the academy of Serena Williams' coach Patrick Mouratoglou in France.

The pair have stayed in touch and the Swiss Miss remains in her corner.

"People really got behind her last year and it was cool to see her grow," Hingis told AAP.

"I love her. She's such an energiser bunny.

"This is what the game needs. You also have Nick Kyrgios, there's something about Australia that brings out the emotions in people.

"This is a good thing because we are not robots. We're entertainers as well and people come here to see a bit of a show. Nick is a great master at that and Daria does also."

While praising Gavrilova for her crowd-pleasing fortitude, the 36-year-old said the next step must be working through the negative times.

"She gets very emotional and she sometimes tends to lose herself for games in a row. You can't do that at the top level," she said.

"She bounces back much better than she did in the junior times.

"If she can master that it will be a great step forward but you also don't want to take away those emotions.

"That's who she is and that's what makes her a great player too."

That criticism is nothing new for the Moscow-born Melburnian, who says she's focusing on being angry rather than downbeat in her lower moments.

"That's what I am. I'm pretty emotional and I'm never going to be a good poker player," she told AAP at an Asics event.

"I can be too negative. And when I cross the line it's not ideal.

"There's a difference. When I'm whingeing and being negative, that's bad. But when I'm angry and fired up for the next point, I'm playing well."

Gavrilova, who plays Brit Naomi Broady in the first round, said she was proud to be seeded but it wouldn't help her progress further than last year.

"It's a great accomplishment but I don't think it makes a big difference. There are so many unseeded players that are good."

Hingis is combining her doubles campaign with an ambassadorial role with Mastercard, promoting the Open as the "happy slam".

"For me it's the happiest slam because it's where I had so much success," she said.

"This year is the 20th anniversary of my first win so it is extra special."

Roger Federer fans rally for his return and hope his talent rages against the dying of the light

Want to become even more popular than you already are? Take a six-month sabbatical: it did the job for Roger Federer. Since the great man’s long-awaited return from surgery, the usual veneration – Federation, perhaps? – has spilled over into tennis Beatlemania.

At the Hopman Cup just after Christmas, Federer filled every seat of the 6,000-capacity stadium for a practice session. No wonder he radiated enthusiasm throughout that comeback event in Perth, playing an imaginary pair of bongos for the big screen, dad-dancing at the player party, and casually brushing past world No 18 Richard Gasquet for the loss of just five games.

Yet the Hopman Cup, for all its promise, was only an exhibition. Next week, the real business starts. As Federer returns to Rod Laver Arena – the venue for four of his 17 major titles – what can we expect from the sport’s most decorated player? Can he stand up to the challenge of five-set tennis? Or will this be the first warning that his powers are truly on the wane?

No one doubts that Federer has been badly missed. The ATP World Tour Finals felt diminished by his imperious absence, which contributed to some patchy crowds in midweek. When he does finally withdraw to the shores of Lake Geneva, tennis will experience similarly painful contractions to the ones suffered by golf once Tiger Woods lost his edge.

Clearly, he is no longer the unstoppable force he was at his peak. But with his 36th birthday due in the summer, his admirers fear the end of days.

From Monday onwards, the Australian Open will be besieged by anxious well-wishers, hoping for one more glimpse of greatness. In the circumstances, the organisers must have been delighted by the draw, which inserted Federer’s name next to three qualifiers. It almost guaranteed a whole week of Fed-frenzy, because the first time he can play a top-100 opponent will be in Friday’s third round.

Should Federer reach that far, however, the degree of difficulty is likely to climb as steeply and suddenly as the slopes of Mount Buller – the Melburnians’ local ski resort. In all probability, he will go from fine-tuning his game against a couple of wannabes to playing Tomas Berdych, the 10th seed and former Wimbledon finalist. And were he to pass that test against the statuesque Berdych, who backs himself to hit through sheet metal, he would most likely move on to Kei Nishikori, the contrastingly lithe and light-footed Japanese.

These are the kind of things that happen when you are seeded 17th. It could have been even worse: Federer could have drawn his old nemesis, Rafael Nadal, in the third round. But there will still be significant pressure on his shoulders. In the old days, when he was racking up major titles like some people collect comics, the 720 points he took from last year’s Australian Open would have been small change. Now, those points represent just over a third of his total.

The penalties for a slip-up, then, are enormous. Let’s say Federer were to overcome both Berdych and Nishikori, then fall in the quarter-finals, where his most likely opponent would be Andy Murray. That would be a highly creditable effort after such a long lay-off. But he would still drop 360 points and fall back into the mid-twenties on the rankings table. For his next tournament – which will probably come in Dubai late next month – he could even be unseeded, raising the possibility that he might face Murray in the first round.

Such are the potential pitfalls when you have been out of the game for half a season. Yet Federer has an asset in the unique cachet he holds right across the game – from spectators to players to officials. In all probability, the majority of his appearances on Rod Laver Arena will come in night sessions, which will save him from the intense heat forecast for the early part of next week.

It might seem strange that, when tournament director Craig Tiley works out the scheduling, the 17th seed will count as his biggest drawcard. But then charisma is only loosely correlated with recent results. Novak Djokovic and Murray stand unchallenged as the leading contenders for the title, but not as first-choice TV properties. Local interest dictates that Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic are both easier to sell. And the old ones – in the familiar cases of Federer and Nadal – are still the good ones as far as the networks are concerned.

Both these tennis giants called time early in their 2016 seasons, having discovered that their bodies do not overcome trauma as quickly as they used to. But their situations are hard to compare, not only because Nadal missed six weeks rather than six months, but also because he is so experienced at the art of the comeback. The man has contended with more faulty joints than an emergency plumber.

“Rafa’s always been unbelievable at comebacks,” Federer told the New York Times last month. “He’s one of the guys who’s done it the best and the most almost. Every time he came back, he was always in the mix again to win big tournaments and be really, really difficult to beat, even on his weaker surfaces. So I think maybe on this occasion, he’s going to lead the way for me, to show how it’s done.”

Federer can be confident that he will not face Nadal over the next fortnight. Both men would have to reach the final, and that would be miraculous. The balance of power has shifted too far towards the younger members of the ‘Big Four’. Even so, neither of the founding fathers is ready to move aside completely.

Federer expressed his position in that same New York Times article, when he breezily told interviewer Chris Clarey that retirement “can totally wait”.

Nadal made the same point – in fewer words – when he asked his old friend Carlos Moy√° to supplement his coaching team. That ended any idea that Nadal’s appetite might be waning, and heightened the sense of unpredictability heading into the new season. Whatever 2017 brings, we should enjoy tennis’s Fab Four while we can.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Roger Federer victorious in first Grand Slam match since summer of 2016

He dropped a set, but Roger Federer had no complaints. After six months out of the game, the 17-time Grand Slam champion was happy to be back on court at a major – even as Austrian qualifier Jurgen Melzer made him earn his 7-5 3-6 6-2 6-2 victory on Monday night.

“This year hasn’t been so tough yet – last year was tough,” Federer said after 2016 was blighted by a torn meniscus in his left knee. “It was a long road, but I’ve made it. I’m in the draw and it’s a beautiful thing. Any match is a good match, even if I’d lost today, because I’m back on the court.”

In many ways, it was the ideal test for Federer, seeded No.17 on his Grand Slam return. Melzer is a wily and well-drilled left-hander who allowed him to test his attacking and defensive game over four sets – hardly your typical first-round showdown between seed and qualifier.

Then again, Melzer is no typical qualifier. The former world No.8 played in a Grand Slam semifinal as recently as 2010, stunning Novak Djokovic in five sets in the French Open quarters before losing to Rafael Nadal. He had even won his last match against Federer, at Monte-Carlo in 2011.

“I was expecting to play a young guy in the first round because there were a lot of young guys qualifying,” Federer said. “To play Jurgen was cool. We know each other since we were 16. We used to play doubles together at the Orange Bowl back at Flamingo Park in Miami. We go way back.”

It’s been a long road back for fellow 35-year-old Melzer – three months Federer’s senior – after surgery to his left shoulder in late 2015. The Austrian played just four Tour events last year, and was the world No.550 as recently as September. On Monday night against Federer he made a mockery of such numbers, leading the first set and storming back in the second to push the 17-time Grand Slam champion through four sets.

Federer’s Grand Slam return got off to an inauspicious start, with four framed shots in the opening game as dusk set in over Rod Laver Arena. As his errors piled up, Melzer built on a good start, securing a 4-2 lead with an arrowed backhand pass.

With that, Federer moved up a gear, rattling through seven of the next eight games and sealing the first set with an ace. And then, just as suddenly, the gears began grinding once more. Leading 3-1 in the second, his first serve deserted him – his conversion rate dropped to 56 per cent – and Melzer capitalised, running away with the second set.

Later, Federer conceded he was perhaps guilty of over-thinking his first five-set match in six months. “I realised it was just consuming me,” he said. “It goes in waves – say, Okay, I'm going to focus right here, then later I'm going to try to play a bit more relaxed. Just calm down a bit, try to play more freely. I think that then worked much better.

“I almost felt like I had to pace myself. I didn't want to overthink every play. That was not the idea, to come here and go mental about every point. It's already great to just be here, trying to play with the guys.”

Federer regrouped at the start of the third, and with a clear mind on a clear night, those trademark moments of magic broke through. Sharpening up on return, time and again he went behind the Austrian to the delight of the crowd and the benefit of the scoreboard, mixed up his net game and opened his shoulders to end the match with 46 winners.

If the third set was good, the fourth was better, Federer bringing up match point with a lob over Melzer that the Austrian tweenered into the tramlines before a looping forehand landed wide to end the contest after two hours and five minutes.

Up next for Federer is American 20-year-old Noah Rubin, who beat fellow American qualifier Bjorn Fratangelo in five sets.

“I know he's a baseliner,” said the Swiss, who admitted he knew little about the former Wimbledon junior champion. “He makes a lot of shots. I guess it's not a bad thing for me. I know it's probably more on my racquet rather than playing a big server.”