Sunday Preview: Federer Tries To Bounce Back; Djokovic Faces Schwartzman
Roger Federer was just two points from defeat in his third-round match at the Australian Open against John Millman in the early hours of Saturday morning. But the 20-time Grand Slam champion survived in a fifth-set tie-break, and now he’ll have a chance to continue his pursuit of a third title in Melbourne in four years.
The 38-year-old Swiss will next play Hungarian Marton Fucsovics for a spot in the quarter-finals. Fucsovics has never advanced past the fourth round of a major, and Federer leads their ATP Head2Head series 2-0.
“The goal for me was really trying to be focussed on my own game and take it to him and play tough,” said Federer after beating Fucsovics 6-4, 7-6(3), 6-2 in the fourth round of the 2018 Australian Open. “But he hung with me for a long time. So it was a good match.”
Federer has now made the Round of 16 at Melbourne Park 18 times in his past 19 appearances, advancing to at least the semi-finals 14 times during that span. But the six-time champ certainly got a scare from Millman, who led Federer 8/4 in the fifth-set match tie-break.
“It was crazy, fun, and I couldn't be more happy, of course,” Federer said. “Big relief.”
Most Grand Slam Round Of 16 Appearances
|1. Roger Federer||67|
|2. Novak Djokovic||50|
|3. Rafael Nadal||47|
|4. Jimmy Connors||43|
|T5. Andre Agassi||42|
|T5. Ivan Lendl||42|
World No. 2 Novak Djokovic did not face such difficulties in his third-round match, ousting the speedy Japanese Yoshihito Nishioka with the loss of only seven games. But he will have to raise his level against No. 14 seed Diego Schwartzman, who has not lost a set. The Argentine has won all but one of those sets by a margin of 6-4 or greater.
Djokovic has won all three of his previous battles against Schwartzman, but their two most recent meetings have gone to a deciding set. The Argentine may stand 5’7”, but he will try to be the aggressor and step into the court against the elastic Serbian, who has played some of his best tennis at Melbourne Park.
What’s scary for the field is that Djokovic is serving lights-out at this year’s Australian Open. Through three rounds, he has hit 47 aces and won 86.8 per cent of his first-serve points.
“I ended up this tournament last year with two fantastic performances against Pouille in the semis and Rafa in the finals. Those were some of the best performances I ever had in the Grand Slam semis and finals,” Djokovic said. “I love playing on [this] court. I like the conditions. I'm starting to feel very, very comfortable and compact on the court. I'm going to try to keep that going.”
Djokovic's Serving In Melbourne Through Three Matches - 2019 vs. 2020
|First-Serve Percentage||67.8% (164/242)||69.7% (152/218)|
|First-Serve Points Won||77.4% (127/164)||86.8% (132/152)|
|Second-Serve Points Won||64.1% (50/78)||56.1% (37/66)|
|Break Points Saved||6/12||2/6|
“[Against] Marin, it's going to be tough. He's won two very good matches, past two and even the first one he won comfortably against a guy who played [in the Doha] final, who I lost to in the first tournament of the year,” Raonic said. “So I'm going to have to focus on my things. I think we're both going to be trying to move the other guy around, be the one dictating. It's going to be important for me to get ahead early in the points, take care of my serve, and be the aggressor.”
Cilic has won two of the pair’s three clashes, but they have played just once since 2013. Perhaps surprisingly only one of their seven sets has gone to a tie-break.
Although both players will try to be aggressive, it will be interesting to follow the ways in which they do. Raonic likes to work his way into the net, while Cilic prefers to build the point from the baseline. However, the Croat is coming off a grueling five-setter against the always-tough Roberto Bautista Agut, and Raonic will be fresher after upsetting reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion Stefanos Tsitsipas in straight sets.
“I think I will be okay for the next match, absolutely. Another great thing to it was today was nice weather to play. And then also in the Melbourne Arena it’s not too hot in there,” Cilic said after his victory. “So I'll be okay. We were lucky with the weather there. We didn't get too [many] crazy hot days. It was definitely easier to play with that.”
The final fourth-round match on the top half of the draw pits No. 12 seed Fabio Fognini, the Melbourne marathon man, against 2018 quarter-finalist Tennys Sandgren in a rematch of last year’s Wimbledon third round, won by Sandgren in straight sets.
Fognini has followed an adventurous route to the second week of the season’s first Grand Slam, needing five sets to beat big-serving Reilly Opelka and home favourite Jordan Thompson. After a far less dramatic third-round victory against No. 22 seed Guido Pella, the Italian No. 2 will now try to exact revenge against the American, who is trying to make his second major quarter-final.
This matchup promises to be a baseline duel, with the offensive-minded Fognini looking to spray the ball around the court against World No. 100, who enjoys crafting points defensively. Sandgren already earned one big upset this fortnight against No. 8 seed Matteo Berrettini, Fognini’s countryman.
“You gear your schedule to peak in these weeks,” Sandgren said after eliminating Berrettini. “I’m getting better at that as I get older. Maybe I’m just getting older and wiser.”