Roger Federer fought back from the brink of defeat to beat John Millman, and reach the fourth round of the Australian Open on Friday night.
Federer seemed destined for defeat when he trailed 8-4 in the match tie break, but the great Swiss won the last six points to claim a superb 4-6 7-6 6-4 4-6 7-6 victory, and register a milestone 100th win at the Australian Open.
While no other player has reached 100 wins on any of the Grand Slams, Federer has now achieved the feat in two majors- Wimbledon and the Australian Open. For long periods on Friday night, it looked like the great man might have to wait another year to reach the three-digit mark in Melbourne, but the six-time champion dug deep to escape with the win after four hours and three minutes.
Millman had upset Federer in the fourth round of the US Open in 2018, and the Australian threatened to repeat the trick in Melbourne, serving well, and taking the game to Federer from the back of the court. Millman struck 11 aces, won over 60% of points on both his first and second serves, and saved seven of ten break points. He was typically resolute in defence, and produced some special passing shots to keep Federer at bay.
“I had to figure out how to get him into trouble on his serve,” reflected Federer.
“He was doing such a good job of not making mistakes, I was struggling, he was dominating both sides. I had to figure out how to create chances”.
“It was big to get that second set, but I never felt comfortable, always on the back foot until that last shot.”
The home favourite got the first break of the match for a 3-1 lead, but he faltered while serving for the first set at 5-3- Federer breaking back with a trademark backhand pass. However, Millman would not be denied, breaking again in the next game, thanks to a flurry of errors by his Swiss opponent, to take the opening set. Both men played at a high level in the second set, but it was Federer who upped the ante in the tie break, winning six points in a row from 0-1, and finishing off the breaker with a deft drop volley.
The great Swiss broke late in the third set to take the lead, but just when he seemed to have finally wrestled control of the match, the obdurate Millman refused to go away, fighting back to take the fourth and push the match into a decider.
Both men exchanged breaks early in the final set- Millman taking a 2-1 lead and Federer hitting back immediately- and the match would fittingly go down to a match tie break. An inspired Millman came up with some stunning tennis to open up an 8-4 lead, but Federer launched a great escape at the death, sealing the win with a forehand winner into the open court at 12:48am local time.
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“Oh God, it was tough,” said the great Swiss, who hit 62 winners and 82 unforced errors. “Thank God it was a super tiebreaker, otherwise I would have lost this one”.
“Where to start … John played a great match, he’s a great fighter, a great guy and it came down to the wire. Maybe a bit of luck. I had to stay so focused to make the right decisions. What a match, John deserves over half of this one.”
The No. 3 seed is into the fourth round in Melbourne for the 18th time, and will take Hungarian, Marton Fucsovics for a spot in the quarter finals.