AUSTRALIAN OPEN, Jan 23 — Roger Federer is 35 years old, and hasn’t won a major since 2012. But he does have won 17 Grand Slams — a record.
Last year, for the first time, his body was breaking down. After he lost at Wimbledon, it was time to go home.
For the rest of the year.
He played with his little kids all the time, but he was also training hard. When he came in January, he was excited and strong. Federer was ready to roll — again.
He overcame Kei Nishikori in the fifth set — 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 — at the Australian Open in the fourth round and is feeling fantastic. He was so excited. Imagine that.
“I felt great in the fifth, I must say,” Federer said. “Great energy. Even deep into the fourth I thought, ‘Yeah, fifth, here we go, no problem for me.’
“I’m feeling good about my chances. I was playing positive tennis, I was playing offensive. My body was reacting. I was playing way better than the first couple of rounds where I put in a lot of mental energy to stay with my opponents, figure them out, how were they going to play, how were the conditions going to be, understand the comeback, really. I’m in the tournament. I was able to focus point per point on my opponent, on the tactics. That didn’t drain me much. I felt great in the fifth, which I’m very happy about.”
Nishikori, who is ranked No. 5 but has never won a major, did attack as much as he could. He smacked his two-handed backhand as aggressively as he could, but the one-handed backhand from Federer was kissing the lines.
“You’re kind of mentally prepared for it. If I [didn’t] know Kei, ‘let me see how his backhand is,’ ” Federer said. “Every time it comes in flying really quickly with a lot of angle, a lot of pace, I would be caught. I would probably lose because I wouldn’t have expected it.
“Because I know Kei now, I’ve seen him a lot of matches, it helps. I think it’s wonderful how he can wait till the last moment to change direction, also the way he finds angle cross-court. He’s one of the few that can actually do it with power. His left hand must be very strong. He wrestles the ball there.
I tried with variation, I tried with serve and volley, or maybe not playing there so much, slice when I can. Sometimes it’s so hard that you cannot get under the ball so well. But I thought actually I hit my backhand very well tonight, which has probably won me the match for once, my backhand.”
Federer does like Australia quite a bit. In 2010, he blitzed the excellent players, whipping out Jo Tsonga and Andy Murray to win the events. However, after that, the Swiss was unable to win the tournament again. Novak Djokovic began to dominate, winning and has won six titles in Melbourne. But Novak was stunned a few days ago, the same goes with Andy Murray on Sunday.
Maybe Federer can win a major again, but it’s not easy when you are a little slow. The older you get, the slower you are.
Federer and the 14-time Grand Slam Rafa Nadal could face off in the final, but they both have a long way to go. Nadal moved another step closer, knocking out Gael Monfils in four sets Monday.
In 2014 in the semis of the Aussie Open, Rafa yanked him around and won in three sets. In 2012, the Spaniard cracked Federer in the semis in four sets. In 2009, Nadal won the event, overcoming Fed in the final, 7-5 3-6 7-6(3) 3-6 6-2.
If they meet, maybe Federer can change the tactics?
But first, he has to beat Mischa Zverev and then very likely, Stan Wawrinka.
“I felt like if Rafa and myself can be healthy, yes, you can expect that,” Federer said. “That Novak and Andy are not [left], that is a big surprise. I never thought that Mischa Zverev [who upset Murray] and [Denis] Istomin would beat those two big guys. I guess it’s good for tennis, that a lot of guys believe that the top guys are beatable, are vulnerable, especially on a faster court. It happened completely in different circumstances. But two huge surprises. No doubt about that.”