All-time great turned escape artist, Roger Federer knows the “draws are not getting easier”, but will put his feet up on Wednesday and look forward to another Australian Open semi-final – his 50th clash against the ruthless Novak Djokovic.
In the hours after Federer’s remarkable and injury-hit 6-3 2-6 2-6 7-6 (10-8) 6-3 win over Tennys Sandgren, the Swiss master was joined in the semis by the defending title holder Djokovic.
The Serbian, who has come a long way in winning over Australian fans, needed only two hours and 49 minutes to defeat Milos Raonic 6-4 6-3 7-6 (7-1), a stark contrast to Federer’s epic battle.
The Djokovic and Federer semi will be the 50th time the pair have played each other, with Djokovic holding a 26-23 advantage.
“Obviously [I have] tremendous respect for Roger, everything that he has achieved in this sport,” Djokovic said in his post-match interview.
“He has been one of the all-time greats. Definitely one of my two biggest rivals … The match-ups against Roger and Rafa have made me the player that I am today. I am grateful that I have had so many great matches against those guys.
It was quite amazing what he has done on the court, today. It is not the first time he has done that in his career. That is why he is who he is. Let the better player win.’’
For his part, Federer was worried about his form.
“I’ll have to play better than I did today otherwise I really am going skiing,” Federer said in his post-match interview having saved seven match points for one of the most amazing comebacks of his glittering career.
“You’ve got to get lucky sometimes, I tell you that,” he said. “On those seven match points, you’re not under control.”
Federer has endured two huge five-set games in the tournament, with his third-round epic against Australian John Millman clearly having taken a toll.
Federer’s groin and leg tightened during the second set of his three-and-a-half-hour match against Sandgren and afterwards spoke about his age and how close he came to being eliminated.
“As the match wore on I started feeling better again I got lucky to get the break and I served really well. I don’t deserve this one, but I’m obviously standing here very, very happy.
“It’s been a lot of tennis throughout my life and sometimes you feel a little funny. I felt my groin and leg tighten up and I started to struggle in defence.
“I don’t like calling the trainer because it’s a sign of defence. I was like whatever, I’m going to grab some treatment … It was stiff, tight and just let him finish me off in style and he didn’t do that, so I’m incredibly lucky.”
Federer needed a medical time-out in the third set, but he didn’t believe his injury would hinder his chances of a record-equalling seventh Australian Open crown.
Draws are not getting easier, but look, I got the rest of the day, nothing to do then I play at night and then you do feel better in a couple of days.
“With these lucky escapes, you don’t play with any expectations because you should be skiing in Switzerland. So you might as well make the most of it.”
The 38-year-old 20-time major champion now has a record-extending 46th grand slam semi-final appearance.
But with Djokovic in such blistering form, he’ll need to bring his best game.
Earlier in the day Australia’s Ash Barty continued her run to a possible maiden Australian Open title with a 7-6 (8-6) 6-2 win over Petra Kvitova.
It made her the first local woman to make the semi-finals since Wendy Turnbull in 1984.
She now plays 14th-seeded American Sofia Kenin on Thursday for a place in Saturday night’s final.
A win would end a 42-year title drought for Australians in Melbourne, with Chris O’Neil the last to win in 1978.
Tennis Australia Court out by legends’ protest
The move by John McEnroe and Martina Navratilova to unfurl a “Evonne Goolagong Arena” banner on Margaret Court Arena was money where your mouth is stuff from two of the sport’s legends.
It certainly caught Tennis Australia by surprise, an organisation that has been forced to tread a fine line between honouring Margaret Court’s playing career and acknowledging her hurtful religious views on homosexuality.
But it wasn’t all support online, with some tennis fans expressing disgust that two greats of the sport would further inflame the issue.
One thing is clear, it’s not an issue that will go away any summer soon.
More tears for Kobe Bryant
An emotional Novak Djokovic paid tribute to his friend Kobe Bryant in the aftermath of his quarter-final victory on Tuesday night.
“I don’t know what we could say. It really caught us by surprise. He was one of the greatest athletes of all time,” the Serbian said.
“He inspired myself and many other people around the world.
I had that fortune to have a personal relationship with him over the last 10 years. When I needed some advice and some support, he was<br /> there for me.
“He was my mentor, my friend. It is just heartbreaking to see and to hear what has happened to him and his daughter.”
Quotable quote …
“I’m not encouraged right now … I have zero encouragement.”
– World No.100 Tennys Sandgren was not in the mood to take any positives out of his close loss to Roger Federer
Coming up on Wednesday
Quarter-finals – Rod Laver Arena
11am: 28-A. Kontaveit v 4-S. Halep
12.30pm: G. Muguruza v 30-A. Pavlyuchenkova
2.30pm 15-S. Wawrinka v 7-A. Zverev
7.30pm 1-R. Nadal v 5-D. Thiem