Australian Open: Roger Federer survives, barely

Roger Federer

Roger Federer was surely out of the Australian Open, down 8-4 in a final set match tiebreak. Somehow, someway, the Swiss survived, winning the last six and pressure-packed points. The match last more than four hours.

Finally, he tacked the Aussie, John Millman, 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(8). He could have lost, but he stayed there, focused, putting the balls back into the court and, when he had a chance, he went for it.

Millman played as well as he could, perhaps the best he played, ever. But he couldn’t knock the Swiss down. That is the way it goes.

“I never really felt comfortable. I felt John did a great job of keeping me on the back foot, that I couldn’t always step in,”Federer said. “Until the last shot; I went for it. He picked the wrong side.”

Federer has won 20 Grand Slams. Perhaps he can do it again, but at Melbourne, he has to play four more times to win it all. The other great players are still there, so Federer might have to face against Fabio Fognini, Milos Raonic, or Novak Djokovic in the semis. And in the final, will it be against Rafa Nadal again? For Federer, it is a very tough draw. But it is a huge challenge, and a very good one for tennis fans around the world.

Years ago, it really looked like Milos Raonic would win a Slam, and perhaps to become No. 1. But he gets injured a lot, and also, even though he hits so many winners, he can panic. But, now, he is finally playing patient and thoughtful. He just played a terrific match, upending the young player Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-5, 6-4, 7-6(2).  You never know how well Raonic will play in the second week. At least he reached the 2016 Wimbledon final. But, on the hard courts, he has to win a lot more. He just has to push himself everyday, or else…The 15-year-old Cori Gauff is totally on fire. She stunned the former champ, Naomi Osaka, 6-3, 6-4. Osaka has played some amazing matches at the Slams. But, admittedly, she was out of it on Friday. OK, maybe she did not play at her best level, but the American is very fast, and steady and powerful. She is coming up very fast, sort of like the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, back in the day. They walked on the court, and immediately, they won so many matches. Both of them have said that it took them years to be much better. When they won their first Slams, in 1999 and 2001, they jumped on it.

Will Gauff do the same thing, winning the Aussie Open right now? On Sunday, she has to face another American, the 21-year-old Sofia Kenin, who is playing terrific ball. It has to be a three setter, with some huge swings, from their forehands, especially.

Alison Riske had a nice win over Julia Goerges 1-6, 7-6(4), 6-2. She could have failed, but she dug in. She loves to crack the ball, and she is pretty good at the net. She has been around for a while, but it took her at least a decade to understand what she has to do. She is smarter now. However, she has yet to reach the semis at the Slams. On Sunday, she will have to go up against No. 1 Ash Barty, on Rod Laver Arena. Riske is not the favorite here because Barty has a tremendous amount of shots. But, in front of the packed crowds. Even in her home country, she has become nervous here and there. And if she does, then Riske will have an opportunity, to stun her. Pressure is more than an opportunity; it can be a killer.