Roger Federer easily took apart Juan Martin Del Potro in a much-anticipated rematch of their 2009 US Open final, won in five sets by the Argentine.
Federer dominated the first and third sets and won a tight second to win his eighth match in ten tries 6‑4, 6‑3, 6‑2.
Del Potro had been hot all tournament but in the mid-day Melbourne heat the best South American tennis player had little to offer the Swiss who was well in his zone playing in his 1000th career match.
Federer, who hasn’t dropped a set during the tournament, will now play Rafael Nadal Thursday night in the semifinals. The Spaniard leads Federer 17-9 including a crushing 5-set title win in Melbourne a few years ago.
The two often play in finals but because of Federer’s decline in the rankings they will meet in a rare semi.
Here’s Federer’s presser after the Del Potro win:
Q. How important was it at the early part of the match to kind of put a marker down and show that you weren’t going to be intimidated by him in those early exchanges?
ROGER FEDERER: I guess for me it was more trying to get used to the day conditions again, make sure the ball doesn’t fly on me, and sort of get used to his pace and make sure I don’t have any hiccups in my own sort of service games, really.
Because I mean, how Juan Martin plays. He knows how I play. We have played some big matches against each other. So just knowing how well he’s been playing as of late, I was just hoping that I would get off a good start. But I was able to mix it up well and control the ball, and right away sort of felt confident, which then sort of helped me to use all aspects of my game.
Then it got tough with the shadow creeping in, and I knew that was going to happen rather sooner than later just because the matches before me took some time. I knew it was going to happen eventually. That’s why the second set, serving out the second set was key for me. You know, get through that tough patch, and then in the third it was a bit more free swinging for me.
Him, maybe, as well, and I took advantage of that.
Q. It felt pretty airless out there. Were the conditions quite brutal?
ROGER FEDERER: You mean the heat?
ROGER FEDERER: No, no problem for me, anyway. It was dry heat. Sure, because there was no wind it increased, you know, the feeling of it being a bit warmer, but I had no problem at all.
I have played in much tougher conditions. I have no issues.
Q. When you saved the fourth break point on 5‑3 in the second set after a long, long rally, you made one of the loudest roars I have ever heard from you.
ROGER FEDERER: That’s why I didn’t celebrate when I won the set, just to make it up, you know.
But, no, it was a couple of big moments for me. I really knew how important that game was for me. Particularly in the one rally actually ‑ I think it was before that ‑‑ where I hit a backhand down the line and I hit it on the line long.
It was so hard to see the ball, really I didn’t know where the backhand was going to go. If it would have gone two meters out, I wouldn’t have been surprised. It ended up on the line. It was very important for me.
Then the next point I was sort of trying dictate, but I was a bit, honestly, a bit scared to hit through it just because it was tough to see the ball, you know, out there with the sun coming in from the side.
I was struggling, as well, with the serve just a little bit. I mean, photographs were having a blast. Every time I was tossing up the ball I heard about a hundred clicks, you know, so it was quite something out there.
But I was able to come through and it was big.
Q. There are endless milestones you have been passing on the way. What does it actually mean to you to rack up 1000 and do it in such style, as well?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, 1000 matches, not 1000 wins. Big difference. (Laughter.)
I wish it was 1000 wins, but I’m happy with 1000 matches in total, too. It’s nice to win this one. I mean, eventually I will forget which was one was my 1000th match and someone will remind me again.
I do not remember my 500, and that was the US Open final against Agassi. No bigger matches than those ones.
It’s a big milestone, I agree. It’s a lot of matches and a lot tennis. Either I have been around for a long time or I’m extremely fit. You decide which way you want to describe it. I don’t know. But I’m happy.
Q. You didn’t win your 1000th match, but you won 2000 sets in those 1000.
ROGER FEDERER: Today?
Q. Yes, today. With first with the first set, that was your No. 2000.
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, a lot of milestones. A roadrunner.
Q. Do you think the semifinal lineup will now be the top four players in the world?
ROGER FEDERER: I think there’s a good chance, yeah. I think all the top guys are playing really well at the moment.
But I think all of us ‑‑ I mean, I was the first to play the quarters, I guess. We were all staring down at tough opponents, you know, in the quarters, and then knowing what potentially could happen in the semis and the finals.
We know it’s going to be a tough end to the tournament if you get there. But it could well be, you know. I wouldn’t be surprised if it were to happen, but the matches aren’t easy.
Q. Do you feel like you’re striking the ball as well as you ever have and in comparison to the top 2, or is the perfectionist in you still a bit dissatisfied?
ROGER FEDERER: In comparison to the top 2? You mean my game compared to them?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I mean, well, I don’t know. I’m watching them for entertainment really at the moment. Tonight will be maybe the first time it will change a bit. I will watch Rafa’s match with maybe more of a purpose, Berdych’s match, too, just to see how it’s really going.
So far they have been extremely solid. I said before, all of them are playing really well. I’m really happy with my game. That’s what I’m most concerned with, to be quite honest.
I’m moving well. I’m serving well. I’m hitting the ball clean. Today I thought, you know, in a very hot day with, you know, fast conditions, I was able to control the ball.
From now on basically it’s only night sessions, so it’s going to change now. It’s going to be an even easier sort of to get a better feel for the ball; then again, it’s going to be more athletic and tougher. I’m ready for that.
Q. Those Rafa comments before the start of the tournament are probably forgotten for you, but does this make a difference if you play against him in the semifinal? Does it change something?
ROGER FEDERER: No. No. Honestly, no. It was here for one day and then gone again. I’m happy about that, because it didn’t deserve more attention than it did.
Yeah, so for me it’s another great match with Rafa potentially, but he’s got a tough task with Berdych first.
But obviously I’d like to play Rafa because of our great epic match earlier in the finals here a few years ago. I’d like to get a chance to play him again here.
Q. Does it feel different being on the same side of the draw as him for the first time a long time? You met him several Grand Slam finals. Obviously first time in a semi potentially since ’05.
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, it’s been a long time. I don’t know when the last time has been when we played in the semis of a slam. Maybe back in 2005 maybe at the French potentially, I don’t know.
But it’s true, we have been, you know, on opposite sides of the draw many times. I didn’t even play Murray last year, you know, because we were ranked I guess 3 and 4, so we always ran into Novak or ‑‑ I basically always ran into Novak.
I guess it’s a nice changeup. Okay, it doesn’t allow a rematch for the Australian Open final here, you know, if Murray were to play Novak. But I think it’s good for tennis that it changes up a bit. Like I said, I’d love to play Rafa in the semis if it happens.
Q. This is the other side of the game, but did you feel a little bit of sympathy with Caroline Wozniacki who has had to put up with a lot of, not criticism necessarily, but a lot of investigation into the fact that she’s been the No. 1 player of the world without winning a slam. Been taking quite a bit of schtick for what she’s done. Do you feel a little bit of sympathy for her in that situation?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, I mean, I haven’t followed in detail what’s been written in the press about her or how she’s been handling her press conferences or how tough you guys have been on her.
But I can imagine it could be tricky because it’s been like this for a while now. Many world No. 1s in the past have not won slams. I have been aware of that, so it makes it difficult out there on the court, I guess. I see many women’s players being extremely sort of tense and fist pumping after every single point. It’s to me pretty surprising to see that, I guess.
I have fist pumped maybe five times at the most, and they do that in one game. It’s incredible to see how intense they are. But then again, I think she’s done really well. There has been many players coming in and out of the game on the women’s side.
But it’s not her problem, really. She did her work, and I think she deserves to be world No. 1. There is no free pass to world No. 1, you know. I think she’s done very well. She wasn’t just there for a week, either. You have to credit her for taking advantage of it and doing the best of it.
It’s not all about the slams anyway. They’re big tournaments, you know, but it’s not only about that.
Q. You hear on TV they talk about statement wins, which they said about you tonight. Does that concept even exist? Are there results during a tournament that other players make that echo with you?
ROGER FEDERER: Maybe a little bit. I didn’t look at this one as a statement win. I mean, I knew the danger of playing Juan Martin, so potentially it was my big test.
But I kind of look looked at the Tomic match as a big test for me, you know, seeing where my rhythm was, how I was playing, because the first three rounds I didn’t get much rhythm. For me it was maybe that match.
Today I was much more relaxed about playing Juan Martin for some reason, even though he’s got the much bigger record as a player. Yeah, so I don’t think players are going to read into this performance much. I’m just happy I’m moving on and I’m in the semis already.
I feel like it’s been a quick week for me, and I feel great. So it’s all about that right now. Sure, when you see the other top guys, you know, always going straight sets, you know, never any issues, yeah, I mean, it does ring a bell.
You know, you say, Okay, the other guys are playing really well, too. That’s why I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re all in the semis.
Q. Are you able to compare those matches against Del Potro? You had some tough ones and that was so easy. Does that mean you are a little better? Is he a little worse?
ROGER FEDERER: Ah, I don’t know. Look, it’s just day form as well, exists as well. Sometimes I’m just playing well and he’s maybe not, and then all of a sudden, you know, there is a combination of many things happening that you end up winning in straight sets.
But I didn’t really struggle too much on his serve today for some reason. I was able to return great, and I think that was a big key. Then I think I was serving the right way, even though I didn’t have the highest first serve percentage.
I think things really went well for me tonight, or today, I think. I still believe he’s right there, you know, in the group behind the top 4. If that means 5 or 11, I don’t think it matters much. He’s right there. He’s going to make another move and another push this year, I think.
I will definitely see him in the top 8 at the end of the year. He’ll get many more chances this year. It’s a long year and it’s only the beginning.
So for me, I’m happy I’m playing well, but I also see that he’s actually in good shape, too.
Q. Worried at all about keeping the momentum you had at the end of last season, because there is that break. You can’t really…
ROGER FEDERER: A little bit. I mean, I guess you’re always a little worried that when you come back you’re like not going to play as good and conditions are going to be different.
This was all indoors at the end of the season. This is clearly slow outdoor hard courts, so you’re never quite sure if you’re going to adjust and are you going to be moving as well or is it going to be completely different movement just because it is slower‑paced courts.
Then again, I have been there so many times and I have finished the seasons six times on an absolute high. Probably the times I didn’t win I still finished great. There’s probably eight or nine times I came in with a lot of confidence into the new season, and most of the times I always played a good Australian Open.
I never lost here I think in the first round or before the third round, so I’ve always played really well here. So you are worried it’s always going to happen for the first time, so I’m relieved I’m going to be in the semis, to be honest.
Q. Do you ever lose sleep before a big game or big match?
ROGER FEDERER: A little bit. Sometimes. Rarely. It’s more the girls than the opponent. (Laughter.)
It does occasionally happen, yes.
Q. Rod Laver arrived here today. Is there an extra feeling, an extra special feeling when someone like him is around to watch a Grand Slam?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, it’s nice. I mean, I love it when former greats come out and sort of not watch me but watch us sort of play. I think it’s very nice.
It’s nice to see Lendl back in the game. Doesn’t matter who he’s playing or working with, to be honest. It’s nice to see him back and sort of caring about what sort of made his life, I guess. Because we do all love it deeply, you know, somehow, in some way.
I saw Roy Emerson also today sitting there all of a sudden. I said, Oh, that’s nice to see you, but I didn’t say that and I didn’t acknowledge him, because I’m pretending to be focused, right?
I was very happy to see him. It’s nice to see greats and legends come out and watch sort of my generation, you know, play on the big courts.
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