Australia’s John Millman wondered before his match if lightning could strike twice against Roger Federer. For a long time it did, but in the end no damage was done.
Millman pushed the world No.3 all the way in a five set epic at Rod Laver arena on Friday night, but Federer escaped shaken but triumphant at 4-6 7-6 6-4 4-6 6-7.
Having bested the Swiss player at the US Open, Millman had the confidence and the shots to threaten an at times out-of-sorts Federer, but the final result came down to the first ever ten-point tie-breaker on Rod Laver arena.
Millman was leading 8-4 in the tie-break after some uncharacteristic mistakes by Federer, but the Australian suddenly lost his cool.
In a matter of moments Federer was serving for the match. The escape was completed with a minimum of fuss.
“Oh, God, it was tough,” Federer told Channel Nine after the match. “Thank God it is a super tie-breaker otherwise I would have lost this one.
“Where do I start? I think John played a great match. He might as well have been a hero in the match … it came down to the wire at the end. A bit of luck, maybe.
I had to stay focussed …The demons are always there, they were lurking. Anyway, what a match! John deserves over half of this one.
Earlier on Rod Laver Arena, Coco Gauff, the 15-year-old American, had upset reigning Australian champion Naomi Osaka.
World No.4 Osaka fell to Gauff 6-3 6-4 in just one hour seven minutes as the Japanese star was let down by 29 unforced errors.
“Honestly, like, what is my life? Oh my gosh,” a stunned Gauff told Channel Nine after the match.
Like last year – two years ago I lost first round in juniors. Now I’m here. This is crazy.”
Saying she’d need a selfie with Rod Laver, having won on the court named in his honour, Gauff conceded she was nervous around the stars of tennis.
“I walked past him a couple of times in the hallways I never
really said ‘Hi’ because I’m a little bit nervous. If he sees this, tell him we can set up a meet up some time. I need a selfie for Instagram.”
And she would not be sitting up to watch her future opponents given she’s still studying while competing in the grand slam event.
“I want to go to sleep tonight … my teachers, they’re giving me some time because considering the circumstances they’re letting me submit some of the assignments late.
“I’ll be asleep. They play late so late.”
That match was between 14th seed Sofia Kenin and China’s Shuai Zhang, with the US player finally winning through 7-5 7-6.
On a day when Serena Williams exited the Open after a shock 6-4 6-7 (2-7) 7-5 loss to Wang Qiang, the leading male Novak Djokovic made no mistakes.
The Serbian set up a fourth-round encounter with Diego Schwartzman with a clinical win on Friday afternoon over Yoshihito Nishioka.
The No.2 seed breezed through the third-round clash, registering a 6-3 6-2 6-2 win over the Japanese in just one hour and 25 minutes.
It’s the 13th time the Serb has made it to the last 16 at Melbourne Park as he chases a record-extending eighth crown.
Djokovic himself marvelled at only giving away just one point on serve in the first two sets.
“If it happened [before], it didn’t happen too many times,” he said. “Definitely one of the best serving matches I’ve had lately.”
There was another big-serving exhibition on Margaret Court Arena as 2016 semi-finalist Milos Raonic upset sixth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-5 6-4 7-6 (7-2).
The 32nd seed dropped 19 aces to leave Tsitsipas and his Greek fans stunned.
He’ll take on marathon man Marin Cilic for a spot in the quarter-finals after the Croat pulled off another five-set win, downing Roberto Bautista Agut 6-7 (3-7) 6-4 6-0 5-7 6-3.
After losing the first set Cilic picked apart one of the form players on tour, at one stage going on an 11-game winning run from 3-4 down in the second to 2-0 up in the fourth.
Bautista Agut, who’d won eight straight matches to start the year, including not dropping a set at the ATP Cup, won just five points in the second set.
Known for his resilience, the Spaniard rode out the storm however, stealing a break back and capturing another to take the match into a decider before the 2018 finalist triumphed.
“I had that incredible patch, that surreal level I was hitting every single ball and it was going in,” said Cilic who won his round two match against Benoit Paire in a super tiebreaker.
“But I knew Roberto was going to fight, he is always a great fighter and competitor.”
Tennys Sandgren, a 2018 quarter-finalist, also moved through to the last 16 with a straight sets win over fellow American Sam Querrey while Marton Fucsovics downed Tommy Paul and Fabio Fognini beat Guido Pella.
Barty feeling in tune after her ‘best match of the summer’
Local favourite Ashleigh Barty has warned her rivals to bring their A-game if they wish to stop her from breaking the country’s 42-year title drought.
As seven-times champion Williams bombed out, Barty delivered her most impressive performance of the summer to roar into the fourth round with a steely 6-3 6-2 win over big-hitting youngster Elena Rybakina.
“I felt I needed to be switched on. A lot of the games were long and tough and I’m happy to get out of them,” Barty said.
The world No.1 then declared she was only just warming up for the business week at Melbourne Park.
I know if a player is going to beat me, they’re going to have to play a very high-quality match for a long period of time.”
Barty next plays 18th seed Alison Riske, the American who knocked the French Open champion out of Wimbledon at the same stage last year.
Czech seventh seed Petra Kvitova remains Barty’s projected last-eight hurdle after storming into the second week without dropping a set.
While there’ll be no Williams in the semi-finals, Barty is only concerned about her next match on Sunday after Riske eliminated the Australian’s doubles partner Julia Goerges with a 1-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 comeback win over the German.
Riske pulled off one of the upsets of 2019 when she rallied from a set down last July at the All England Club to snap Barty’s 15-match European winning streak that propelled her to world No.1 for the first time.
“Obviously if you have played someone, you can draw on some of those experiences,” Barty said.
“But, yeah, absolutely nothing changes. I’m still here, it’s all good.”
Eat your greens says Djokovic
Novak Djokovic apparently doesn’t like the term vegan, but he was happy to talk to reporters on Friday about his “plant-based” diet, which he credits for his strong run of form.
Quotable quote …
“I am just a better actress, as I always say now. I’m no happier than I was 10 years ago. But I just have to pretend like I don’t want to punch the wall, but in reality I do.”
– Serena Williams conceding the losses still sting even at 38.
Coming up on day six
23-Nick Kyrgios (AUS) v 16-Karen Khachanov (RUS)
Their only previous meeting at last year’s Cincinnati Masters was a controversial one, with the Australian losing in three sets and then being fined for abusing the chair umpire. The Russian has started 2020 well, winning four of his five singles matches at the ATP Cup.
4-Daniil Medvedev (RUS) v Alexei Popyrin (AUS)
Popyrin intends to get to the net at every available opportunity, believing it’s his only shot of causing an upset against Medvedev. Medvedev needed four tight sets to win his only previous match against Popyrin in 2019 at Wimbledon.
16-Elise Mertens (BEL) v CiCi Bellis (USA)
Former teen prodigy Bellis is one of the feelgood stories of the Open, having recovered from four bouts of surgery, including one instance where surgeons had to break her right arm in half to save her tennis career. Now ranked 600 in the world, and playing her first major in two years, Bellis powered past 20th seed Karolina Muchova in the second round to set up the clash with No.16 Mertens.