Roger Federer pulled off a sensational comeback saving seven match points to beat 100th ranked Tennys Sandgren in five sets after being down two sets to one on Tuesday at the Australian Open. He will face second seed Novak Djokovic in a blockbuster semifinal on Thursday. Federer won 6-3, 2-6, 2-6, 7-6(8), 6-3 in three and half hours while defending champion Djokovic easily overcame the big server Milos Raonic 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(1). Top seed Ashleigh Barty set up a semifinal against young American Sofia Kenin after they beat Petra Kvitova and Ons Jabeur respectively in straight sets.
Third seed Federer has not looked at his best this year at Melbourne having to come through a fifth set tie break earlier against home player John Millman after being 4-8 down in the match tie breaker and also going four sets against Marton Fucsovics. Playing a rare day match, Federer started off well taking the first set 6-3. Sandgren broke twice to take the second set and broke early to lead 3-0 in the third set. Federer also received a code violation for swearing in his native language which was noted by a line umpire. Down 0-3, Federer took a medical time-out to get his leg and groin treated which he later said was tight and stiff. Coming back, his movement gradually improved and started hitting his serves more powerfully as well. But Sandgren took the third set 6-2 and they were even in the fourth set at 4-4.
Sandgren then had 3 match points as Federer served to stay in the match at 4-5. On each occasion, the American had a chance to finish off the point with relatively easy shots and nerves got the better of him as he found the net each time. Federer then took the set to a tie break where again Sandgren took the lead going up 6-3 and having 3 match points. Again Sandgren was unable to close it out as Federer stayed tough playing well and allowing Sandgren to make errors which he did. Federer saved one more match point and then closed out the set winning the tie break 10-8. In the fifth set, Federer looked the stronger of the two as understandably Sandgren’s level went down just a little after his missed opportunities. The 20 time Grand Slam winner broke to take the lead and soon closed out the comeback win in just over three and half hours. After the match, Federer reflected on his win admitting that he was incredibly lucky to win that match, “You’ve got to get lucky sometimes. 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.”
Djokovic went into his quarterfinal match against Raonic with great confidence leading 9-0 in their head to head and it showed as he put the Canadian’s serve under immediate pressure. Raonic had not been broken in the tournament and had served really well but the World No.2’s returns deep into the court had Raonic in trouble as he could not engage in rallies with Djokovic. Raonic did well to stave off a few breakpoints using his big serve but ultimately cracked. Soon Djokovic broke to win the set and went on to dominate set 2 as well. He led 6-4, 6-3 and it was a little more competitive in the third set at 4-4. This was when Djokovic went off court to change his contact lens which was deemed as a medical time out. Raonic was not happy as he had words with the umpire but managed to hold after the long break. It went to a tie break eventually where Djokovic dominated to win the match in straight sets.
After the match, Djokovic paid tribute to basketball star Kobe Bryant who died in a helicopter crash along with a few others including his daughter. “He was one of the greatest athletes of all time, 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 support, he was there for me. He was my mentor, my friend, it’s just heartbreaking to see what has happened to him and his daughter. It’s unbelievable.”
Home favourite and World No.1 Barty became the first Australian woman to reach the semifinals of the Australian Open since Wendy Turnbull in 1984 as she got past 7th seed Petra Kvitova 7-6(6), 6-2. In a rematch of last year’s quarterfinal, Barty overturned the result as she won a tough first set and raced away to a quick start in the second set. Kvitova was looking to comeback but Barty shut the door and entered the semifinals. 14th seed Kenin reached her first ever semifinals at a Slam as she stopped the giant killing run of 78th ranked Ons Jabeur of Tunisia who is the first Arab woman to reach the quarters at the Australian Open. Kenin exchanged early breaks with Jabeur and needed six set points to close out the lead. The American continued to play well and won the match in straight sets 6-4, 6-4 in an hour and 32 minutes.
Leander Paes ended his final Australian Open campaign as he and his partner Jelena Ostapenko lost to the U.S Open champions Jamie Murray and Bethanie Mattek Sands 6-2, 7-5. Paes came up with some trademark volleys and they put up a stiff fight in the second set but their opponents proved to be too good on the day to go through to the quarterfinals.