Roger Federer regained control after a slow start against Hungarian Marton Fucsovics to march into the quarter-finals of the Australian Open with a 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 win on a chilly evening at the Rod Laver Arena on Sunday (Jan 26).
The six-time Australian Open winner, who was two points from defeat against John Millman in his previous round, looked rusty in the first set with Fucsovics breaking him in the seventh game to win the set.
But the 38-year-old Swiss, a 20-time Grand Slam winner, soon shifted up a gear and broke Fucsovics early in each of the next three sets to reach the Australian quarter-finals for the 15th time.
“The morning after Johnny’s match and this morning I lay in bed for an hour thinking, ‘when are we going to stand up? Okay 1-2-3, huh, and how do I feel?” he laughed, referring to his 4-6, 7-6 (7-2), 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (10-8) win over Australian Millman.
“I was able to recover; I’m sure I’m going to feel better every day that goes by after that match.”
The third-seeded Federer will now face American Tennys Sandgren, who defeated No. 12 seed Fabio Fognini 7-6 (7-5), 7-5, 6-7 (2-7), 6-4 earlier.
It will be also be his 57th appearance in the last eight at Grand Slams. No one else is close, with Novak Djokovic next in line on 46.
“It just took me some time, I tried to mix it up a bit and just had to figure it out. From the beginning of the second set it got a little bit easier,” he added.
Federer, who could face Djokovic in the semi-finals if he gets past Sandgren, wrapped it up in 2hr 11min, almost two hours less than his third-round epic against Millman.
Sandgren, a devout Christian, achieved his best Grand Slam result at Melbourne Park by reaching the last eight in 2018, but it was overshadowed by a row over his political views and links to right-wing activists.
He has put the controversy behind him and shown battling qualities to make the last eight again, and said he was relishing the chance to play an all-time great.
“It will be very special, very special. To play him on a big stage like quarters of a Slam would be a ton of fun really,” he said.
The pair have never met before, as Federer noted: “I’ve played a lot of tennis in my life but never against Tennys.”
Sandgren’s clash with the unpredictable firebrand Fognini had plenty of highs and lows.
Nerves began fraying after Sandgren won the first set and Fognini was allowed a toilet break, with the American confronting the umpire.
“He gets his own rules because you’re afraid to step on his toes,” he ranted. “If you’re wondering why players think you guys give people different treatment, this is one of the reasons why. I think he gets different treatment.”
Fognini was then given a point penalty for taking his shirt off, before seeking treatment for his right hand that he injured by punching his racquet earlier in the tournament.
The distractions did not unsettle Sandgren who went two breaks and 4-0 up in the second set before Fognini came steaming back, winning five games in a row before he was broken again and the American regained focus to go two sets in front.
Sandgren needed treatment for an upper leg problem in the third set, which went to another tie-breaker with the Italian looking fresher as he took it to a fourth set.
There was little between them as they battled for supremacy in some high quality rallies until Fognini blinked first and Sandgren broke to win the match in the 10th game, taking a theatrical bow in front of a boisterous crowd.