Roger Federer is through to his fifteenth Australian Open semi-final after a miraculous 6-3, 2-6, 2-6, 7-6(8), 6-3 over Tennys Sandgren that saw the six-time champion save seven match points.
The Swiss has now made the last four stage of a Grand Slam forty-six times and arguably pulled off his greatest escape yet, overcoming a leg injury and staring defeat in the face during the fourth set break to finally progress in 3 hours and 31 minutes.
Perhaps more impressively, Federer has still never retired once he's taken to the court in 1512 matches. Proving that if you do stay out there, even if the outlook is bleak, strange things can and do happen. That's why Roger will take to the court again on Thursday for a semi-final showdown against Novak Djokovic.
Quick Match Recap
Federer won the toss and elected to serve. The Swiss kicked off with a hold but had to save a breakpoint to come through a scrappy game for 1-0.
Sandgren then found himself under pressure at 15-40 in his opening game but played solidly to level.
With Roger having the upper hand from the baseline a couple of slick net forays saw him hold comfortably for 2-1 before fashioning 0-40 on the return.
Ther American saved all three break points with a flurry of big first serves and held thanks to a brilliant flicked Federer-esque pass.
Despite missing five chances to break, Roger continued to roll on serve with a hold to fifteen for 3-2.
It appeared Sandgren had too found a nice rhythm thanks to two aces for 30-0, but a costly double fault at 30-30 gave Roger another break chance which he converted when a Sandgren backhand went long.
Federer consolidated the break for 5-2 before Sandgren held to force the six-time champion to serve it out.
Roger obliged with a routine hold to take the set 6-2, and he'd landed 71% of first serves to take it in thirty-five minutes.
Into set two and after holding from deuce, Sandgren took advantage of a sloppy Federer service game to break for 2-0. The American consolidated to fifteen to take a 3-0 lead.
Roger got himself on the board in game four, but Sandgren was able to maintain his lead with some reliable serving for 4-1.
That pattern repeated itself as more impressive serving from Sandgren put him a game away from levelling at 5-2.
The scoreboard was soon a set apiece as Sandgren broke again to take the set 6-2. Federer had hit 15 unforced errors and allowed the American to grow in confidence.
Into the third and Sandgren picked up from where he left off in set two, holding for 1-0 and breaking immediately for 2-0.
Federer needed an immediate response, and after winning a 28 shot rally to set up 0-40, it looked imminent.
However, after Federer received a warning for swearing after dumping a backhand into the net at 15-40, Sandgren produced an excellent backhand to make deuce. An impressive response after a delay broke his rhythm due to Federer disputing the audible obscenity warning. The American went onto hold for 3-0.
At the changeover, Federer called the physio and received an off-court medical timeout. Upon resumption, he stopped the rot to hold for 1-3.
With Federer's serve speeds down 15 km/h from sets one and two, he continued to struggle on serve, and although he held for 2-4, Sandgren didn't lose his composure as he broke again to take the set 6-2.
Into set four and the pair exchanged opening holds for 1-1 but with Federer struggling to move well to his right, Sandgren was able to roll through his service games to forge a 4-3 lead.
The American didn't have it all his own way though as Roger mixed up his game nicely on serve, refusing to just throw in the towel as his serve speeds slowly improved which I assume was from a boost in adrenaline or the pain medication kicking in.
At 5-4, Sandgren created his first match point but got a little tight, failing to convert and another three that followed as Federer escaped the game to hold for 5-5.
With Sandgren making the mistake of already thinking he was in the semi-finals he quickly had to regroup when down 30-40 in game eleven. Federer had a play on the pass to break, but Sandgren recovered to hold for 6-5.
The Swiss then held to force a tiebreak which just half an hour ago seemed very unlikely. Into the breaker and both players took care of their opening service points as the score ticked to 3-3.
At the change of ends, a ball girl ran into Sandgren's leg which could have disrupted him, but he reeled off three points in a row to hold three more match points at 6-3.
As Sandgren was already well aware, Federer wasn't going to go down without a fight, and the Swiss asked him to come up with the goods by winning a patient rally and refusing to miss for 4-6. Roger saved the next on serve for 5-6 and then showed off some more skills to level at 6-6.
Sandgren then brought up his seventh match point but couldn't convert on the return, opting to play into Federer's backhand when the Swiss was struggling to move to his forehand.
Federer held for 8-7, and although Sandgren fired an ace to save set point, he dropped the next and Federer needed no second invitations to force a fifth set.
Into the fifth and Federer was very much enjoying a second wind, with his serve back to somewhat normality, he held his opening game comfortably for 1-0.
No doubt confused as to why he wasn't in the locker room already, Sandgren suddenly found himself down break point after holding a game point. Again the American showed good composure to save it and the second that followed to level at 1-1.
However, the two-time quarter-finalist in Melbourne wasn't having any success on the return and in game six, he dropped serve when the now moving freely Federer skipped around a backhand to fire an inside-in forehand winner for 4-2.
Federer then consolidated the break for 5-2, and although Sandgren held for 3-5, he wasn't able to derail the Fed express as he served it out 6-3.
|Aus Open QF 2020||Tennys Sandgren||Roger Federer|
|1st serve in||65% (97/150)||61% (112/171)|
|Win 1st serve||79% (77/97)||71% (80/112)|
|Win 2nd serve||45% (24/53)||53% (31/59)|
|Breakpoints won||29% (4/14)||15% (2/13)|
|Net points won||72% (23/32)||67% (47/70)|
|Receiving points won||33% (57/171)||29% (44/160)|
|Return unforced errors||6||2|
|Total points won||161||160|
|Fastest serve||212 km/h||198 km/h|
|1st Serve Average||190 km/h||180 km/h|
|2nd serve average||152 km/h||152 km/h|
On Court Interview
Federer Press Conference
Sandgren Press Conference
A tough loss for Sandgren but I like his game and what he brings to the court. Composed throughout and as Federer said, this guy will be ranked higher.
Thoughts on the 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. Federer speaking to Jim Courier on court
Another drama-filled match that is a tricky one to analyse. There won't be many matches Roger wins where his opponent wins more points, hits 27 aces to his 5, only drops serve twice, breaks four times, wins more receiving points and fires 73 winners to his 44, but that's what happened.
If Roger was lucky to escape John Millman last week, then all you can say about this match is that it was ten per cent luck, twenty per cent skill, fifteen per cent concentrated power of will. Five per cent pleasure, fifty per cent pain. And a hundred per cent reason to remember the name 😀 .
The first set went pretty much as I expected with Roger looking stronger from the baseline and Sandgren not making much of an impression on serve. However, as the American started hitting his spots, Federer's delivery tailed off, and he looked dead and buried from the second set onwards.
Federer's serve was down 15 km/h in speed compared to the first set and a half, and instead, he had to rely on hand skills to win points rather than footwork. But he refused to lie down, played well when his back was to the ball in that fourth set tie break, and when the finishing line was in sight, his level went up.
Sandgren, on the other hand, couldn't quite muster the right plays on those massive points and leaves empty-handed. Much like Federer at Wimbledon last year, I don't think he made huge mistakes on any of the match point chances, but for one reason or another, the chips didn't fall his way.
In hindsight, I think he had to be more ruthless in general in that fourth and fifth set and made a conscious effort to get Roger moving more to his forehand where he was struggling. Instead, he played a little bit safe thinking the result was likely a formality and paid the price.
As for Roger what can you say, I said in a previous post, Fed is one of the most perspicacious guys out there, and he quickly figured out what he could and couldn't do movement-wise from the baseline. Choosing to mix it up, serve and volley and just do what he could to not hand the match to Sandgren on a silver platter.
It worked, and when he started to feel better through adrenaline or pain killers, he served top drawer in that fifth set to come through. Allez!
Predictions vs Djokovic
Next up is Novak Djokovic who took out the big-serving Milos Raonic with a routine straight-sets victory during the night session.
Novak has looked rock solid so far this year, helping Serbia to win the inaugural ATP Cup and now cruising through his matches in Melbourne without really being tested.
Conditions historically suit him at Melbourne Park and with the courts being slower and lower bouncing this year it's even more well suited to his game.
Based on form, H2H, Federer's groin issue and the fact he's been giving sets away like sweets so far in Melbourne then Djokovic is the huge favourite on Thursday. Novak is far too good at exploiting any limitations in Federer's movement so it will be interesting to see what Roger can produce.
Roger is going in somewhat pressure-free having already used two get out jail free cards against Millman and Sandgren so I hope he can swing for the fences and see what happens. Hopp Suisse!
What did you guys think of the win against Sandgren? Predictions against Djokovic? Let me know in the comments.