Federer Defeats Nishikori in Five Sets at Australian Open – Taking six months off in 2016 brought a lot of uncertainty in how Roger Federer would play in 2017, particularly early on, and against fierce competition in early rounds. Matching his grand slam total, ranked #17, the Swiss maestro ran into tenth seed Tomas Berdych in the third round, and flew past the Czech in just 90 minutes. Facing Kei Nishikori would bring a much different challenge. A less potent serve, much better baseliner and mover than Berdych, and a player who has become a mainstay as a top five level player. Sunday night’s meeting was the first between the two in a grand slam.
Nishikori broke Federer in the opening game, and raced out to a 4-0 lead. From the early deficit, down 5-1 at one point, the 35-year-old Swiss fought back, breaking twice to even the match at 5-all and eventually send the first set to a tiebreak. With a slight display of easing up on his aggression, Federer fell behind as Nishikori took advantage for a one set lead.
Unfazed, the 4-time Australian Open champion stayed the course, which included hitting 24 aces and 83 winners, winning 29 of 44 points at net, and converting 7 of 18 break point opportunities. Federer evened the match with a pivotal break in the second set, and then surged ahead to a two sets to one lead. Nishikori battled early in the fourth set, holding serve in a long game, and easily breaking the Swiss immediately after. The 27-year-old from Japan forced a fifth set, but it was Federer who prevailed in the end, wearing out his opponent after 3 hours and 23 minutes.
“I think I’m playing better and better. Today over a long period of time, I had to be refocused and playing good tennis. I served exceptionally well tonight, which was key against Nishikori. I’m very pleased there. Rhythm from the baseline is there now,” Federer said.
“I’m in the tournament now, and you know how the balls and the court surface react to my shots and for my opponents what can happen. I’m not getting surprised so much anymore, which is only helpful for the next round.”
Federer advanced to the quarterfinals with a 6-7 (4) 6-4 6-1 4-6 6-3 victory over Nishikori, and on Tuesday night, will face Mischa Zverev, who upset world #1 Andy Murray in four sets earlier in the day.