Roger Federer has produced perhaps the most extraordinary escape act of his illustrious career, outlasting Tennys Sandgren in five sets to make the Australian Open semi-finals.
In one of the biggest comebacks we’ve seen in Grand Slam history, Federer saved a total of seven match points in the fourth set before conquering a dejected Sandgren in the fifth, 6-3 2-6 2-6 7-6(8) 6-3.
”You’ve got to get lucky sometimes,” Federer smiled during his on-court interview. “I was just hoping that maybe he wasn’t going to smash a winner, if he misses one or two [match points], who knows what’s going to happen? I think I got incredibly lucky today.
”As the match went on, I started to feel better and just tried to play. I believe in miracles. There could be rain… Just let him finish me off in style, and he didn’t do that. I’m still standing here and obviously just very happy.”
While the comeback itself was incredible, it was the manner in which Federer staged it that will remain memorable and go down in Australian Open folklore.
Appearing set for a comfortable straight sets victory after easing through the opener, Federer suddenly struggled to move and get up on his serve, failing to bend his back and complete his normal motion.
After picking up a warning for a rare audible obscenity, Federer went off court after dropping the second set and falling behind a break in the third to receive a medical timeout.
Commentators and pundits speculated that it was Federer’s sometimes-troublesome back, but the 38-year-old would later reveal he was dealing with a groin issue – but wouldn’t elaborate on how bad it was.
Drawing on all of his resilience, Federer managed to stay on serve with Sandgren to reach a fourth set tiebreak, saving a pair of match points in his last two service games.
From there, Sandgren opened up a 6-3 lead and looked destined to reach the first major semi-final of his career (even surviving what could have been a nasty collision with a ballkid), but the American got tight and could barely put the ball in court, falling back into a conservative style of play instead of persisting with the aggressiveness that got him to a leading position in the first place.
Federer would ultimately save all of the match points and force a fifth set – and from there, Sandgren – who’s ranked 100 in the world – was never going to recover from the disappointment of missing out on a once-in-a-lifetime win.
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 28, 2020
With the miraculous comeback, Federer remains unbeaten in Australian Open quarter-finals, improving his record to 15-0.
The six-time Australian Open champion will next face Novak Djokovic or Milos Raonic for a spot in the final on Thursday night.
”It’s nice to see Milos back and playing well. It’s nice for him to remind everybody that he does belong up in the [FedEx ATP] Rankings. I’m really happy for him,” Federer said. “Novak, he’s a champion, especially here in Australia. We’ve had some epic matches in the past. Regardless of who I play, I need to feel better than I do today.
”The draws are not getting easier. But I’ve got the next [two] days with nothing to do… You do feel better and you just never know. With these lucky escapes, you might play without expectations because you know you should be skiing in Switzerland… Might as well make the most of it!”