Roger Federer pulled out a “miracle” in his quarterfinal win over Tennys Sandgren at the Australian Open. Dealing with a groin injury, Federer came from 2-1 down in sets and saved seven match points to deny the upset-minded American 6-3, 2-6, 2-6, 7-6(8), 6-3.
Federer was a heavy favorite entering the match against the world No. 100, and after a comfortable first set, all looked in order for the six-time champion. But Sandgren got a break in the second — at which time Federer later said he felt pain in his groin — and held on to level a set apiece.
In the third, struggling with his serve and movement, Federer went down 3-0 and after receiving a warning for swearing, the 38-year-old left the court for a medical timeout.
Upon return, the treatment made no difference as Federer’s struggles continued allowing Sandgren to swiftly take the third.
Federer started to play a little better in the fourth, but serving 4-5 Federer faced three match points, yet somehow escaped and Sandgren missed an open backhand down the line that, if he connected, would have ended the match.
In the ensuing breaker, Sandgren got up 6-3 but again fell short of closing. He would miss one more before Federer forced a fifth set, his second of the event.
And with Federer now back in form and Sandgren ruing those blown chances, Federer cruised to his sixth straight five set win in Australia.
“You’ve got to get lucky sometimes,” Federer told the crowd. “I was just hoping that maybe he wasn’t going to smash a winner, if he misses one or two, 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.”
Sandgren credited Federer for rising up to the challenge.
“Obviously, he played them well,” said Sandgren said of the match points. “I could have played them better. I’ve run through them a bunch of times. He was aggressive on one, passive on a few, came in on one, could have put the volley in a different spot.
“He read it well, hit two good passes. Put me in an awkward spot on the last one I had. Missed the approach. He probably would have passed me anyway. It was in a bad spot. All credit to him for sure.
“Once he could see the finish line being a real thing, I thought his level picked up, as my level was maybe decreasing a little bit. I did think he picked his level up a little bit in the fifth set, which is to be expected.
“When you survive that many times, you can’t give a good player, let alone maybe the best player ever, that many chances to come back. They’re going to find their game and start playing well. That seemed to me what happened.”
Federer will now have to deal with his groin and Novak Djokovic who eased past Milos Raonic.
“I don’t know if you can call it an injury. It’s just pain and problems. I need to figure it out now,” said Federer.
“But as it’s not like in 18 hours, like you got a third round to play, semifinals, you have an extra day, adrenaline, there’s a lot of things. Two good nights of sleep, doctors, physios.
“Hopefully we’ll find out that it’s actually nothing bad, that it was just the groin that went really tight from playing a lot, who knows what, from nerves.
“I don’t know. I’m hopeful. We’ll find out tonight, tomorrow. The next day we’ll see how it goes.”
Djokovic has been in dominant form having now won his last 12 matches in Melbourne. Tuesday night, he stopped Raonic’s serve to beat the Canadian in straight sets 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(1).
“I felt great on the court. I thought I was very focused,” Djokovic told the crowd. “The first couple sets went exactly how I wanted them to go. I was quite comfortable serving. Playing Milos, I knew the two key elements would be the return and how efficiently I hit my spots with the serve.’
The Serb, who has never lost once he reaches Melbourne’s last four, was irritated late in the match by some contact lens issues, but otherwise was untroubled as he ran his record to 10-0 against Raonic (24 of 26 sets).
“I want to apologize to Milos once again it was not something that you see often,” Djokovic said of leaving the court in the third set. “I to apologize to the crowd as well. It was not intentional or tactical. It was just something that I had to do because those few games I really couldn’t see much and I had to change my lenses.
He now looks ahead to a showdown with Federer.
“Obviously, tremendous respect for Roger and everything he has achieved in the sport. He’s one of the all-time greats and definitely one of my two biggest rivals. I’ve said this many times, the matchups against Roger and Rafa have made me the player I am today.”
On Wednesday, Alexander Zverev will try to keep his good run going and reach his first Slam semifinal against 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka. The German has won both meetings with Wawrinka.
In the evening, Rafael Nadal will battle Dominic Thiem. Nadal leads 9-4 including wins in the last two French Open finals. But Thiem took Rafa to five in a thrilling 2018 US Open quarter.
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