Australian Open, Melbourne January 16-29, 2017; 128 draw (32 seeds); Surface – Hard
Summaries taken from ATP articles (a little blend with others) with my blue notes…
Final: (17)Roger Federer d. (9)Rafael Nadal 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 [3:38 h]
Federer recovered from a *1:3 deficit in the 5th set against his great rival Nadal to capture his 18th Grand Slam championship crown and his fifth Australian Open title on Sunday night. Throughout, it left the capacity crowd on Rod Laver Arena on the edge of their seats. The win marks Federer’s first Grand Slam championship victory since he beat Andy Murray for the 2012 Wimbledon title. Federer is the first No. 17 seed to capture a Grand Slam championship crown since Pete Sampras, who clinched the 2002 US Open title in his final professional match. The Swiss superstar now 18-10 in major finals, while Nadal is 14-7 lifetime in finals on the biggest stages. The hyperbole surrounding a final between these two all-time greats did not appear to affect Nadal or Federer in the opening exchanges of their 35th meeting – and fourth on Melbourne soil. Predictably, each player centred their tactics on targeting backhand wings and opening up the court – yet through the first six games there were two love holds. The battle for baseline dominance reached fever pitch at 3-all, when Nadal failed to consistently hit his first serves into court and Federer seized the initiative courtesy of a forehand drive volley for two break points. The pressure mounted on Nadal, the longer the rally went on at 15/40. Ultimately, he struck a crosscourt backhand wide. The Rod Laver Arena, largely pro-Federer, erupted at the first service break of a high-quality opening. Federer consolidated the break with a love hold for a 5:3 advantage and later hit two aces to secure the 34-minute set. The level of play ratcheted up with Nadal winning six of the first seven points. Federer was drawn to the net by Nadal, whose groundstroke depth rushed the Swiss into error. Nadal earned his first service break when Federer mis-hit a forehand for a 2:0 lead, prior to a testing third game. Nadal led 30/0, but lost the next three points and was forced to save two break points as terrific athleticism and elasticity by 35-year-old Federer belied his age. Trailing 0:4, Federer loosened up and Nadal’s relentless groundstroke length faltered, momentarily. At 30/40, Nadal went all-out on a forehand down the line, but Federer was able to flick a forehand back and into an open court to break. Nadal held his nerve and with two straight love holds, he clinched the set when when Federer struck a forehand long. Game on. Federer got out of jail in the first game. Having led 40/0, Nadal won five straight points but was ultimately unable to convert three break point opportunities – as Federer struck an ace each time. Having edged through, Federer seized the momentum by breaking Nadal for a 2:0 lead. A sublime backhand half volley down the line at 30/30 did the damage, followed by a deep backhand return that Nadal attempted to run around to hit a forehand into an open court. The Spaniard ran out of time and the pressure further mounted when Federer went on to hold to love for 3:0. At this stage, Federer was zoning on his backhand, quick in his movement to his forehand, and was not allowing Nadal time to recover with a number of drive volley winners. Nadal continued to battle and came through a nine-minute game for 1-3, saving three break points, but emotion, frustration got the better of him and two games later he was broken to 30. Federer then saved two break points to complete a remarkable turnaround, after overcoming the pressure of the opening game, with a backhand drop volley winner. For the first time in his ninth Grand Slam final against Nadal, he led two sets to one. One mental lapse on an easy forehand at the start of the fourth game cost Federer dear, as Nadal soon wrestled away the momentum. At 15/40, Federer was drawn to the net to retrieve a low backhand but stretched and volleyed into the net. Nadal’s mental strength was undimmed a game later, when he produced a tremendous flicked crosscourt forehand winner – at full stretch – off a fine Federer backhand crosscourt angle for a 4:1 advantage. At the change of ends, Federer applauded after watching the big screen replay. Federer held for 3:5, forcing Nadal to close out the 40-minute set – which he did courtesy of a Federer backhand into the net. Nadal went into the decider knowing he’d won three of their previous five five-setters. Federer returned after an off-court medical time out to serve first in the decider. The time lapse provided respite, but not for the Swiss who lost the first two points. Under pressure, Federer went after Nadal’s backhand and saved one break point, but a forehand error at 30/40 gifted Nadal the break. Nadal then saved three break points for a big hold that got his coach, Uncle Toni, out of his seat. But Federer, who received on-court treatment on his right thigh at the 1-2 change of ends, wasn’t finished. Federer kept applying the pressure, playing as close to the baseline as he could, and in the next game forced Nadal to rip a backhand crosscourt winner at break point. Although Nadal maintained his break advantage for a 3-1 lead, the match could turn on its head with a moment of brilliance. It did in the sixth game, with Federer levelling the score at 3-3 on his second break point chance when Nadal struck an in-out forehand wide. Nadal showcased terrific mental fortitude at 3-4 when he recovered from 0/40 and saved four break points, but Federer was relentlessly aggressive and controlled the baseline. At the fifth time of asking, the Swiss broke when Nadal was drawn out wide to hit a forehand into the net. With new balls, and some nerves, Federer went on to save two break points and close out his 100th match at Melbourne Park for an emotional – and memorable – 18th Grand Slam championship crown. “I’m out of words,” said Federer, after receiving the trophy from Rod Laver. “I’d like to congratulate Rafa on an amazing comeback. There are no draws in tennis, but I would have been very happy to accept one and share it with Rafa tonight. The comeback had been perfect as it was,” said the Swiss, who was playing his first tour-level event after a six-month injury lay-off. Stats of the match.
2nd semifinal: (9)Rafael Nadal d. (15)Grigor Dimitrov 6-3, 5-7, 7-6(5), 6-7(4), 6-4
It will be Rafael Nadal against Roger Federer in the Australian Open final after the Spaniard withstood a gritty performance from Grigor Dimitrov to prevail n an exhilarating contest on Friday night in the semi-finals at Melbourne Park. It was an emotional victory for the 30-year-old Nadal, who is through to his first Grand Slam final since winning the 2014 Roland Garros crown – his 14th major triumph. It will be his fourth final appearance at Melbourne Park, having lifted the trophy in 2009, beating Federer in a dramatic five-set finale, and finished runner-up in 2012 (l. to Djokovic) and 2014 (l. to Wawrinka). “It was a fantastic match. Very emotional,” said Nadal. “I think Grigor played great. I played great. So was a great quality of tennis tonight. For me, it is amazing to be through to a final of a Grand Slam again here in Australia at the start of the year. Means a lot to me. I feel the love of the people here. They give me a lot of positive energy. I feel very happy to be part of this match. There was a moment in the fifth set that for sure I wanted to win. I said to myself, ‘I am giving my best, I am playing very well. If I lose, that’s it. Grigor deserves it, too.’ I think both of us deserved to be in that final. It was a great fight. Finally was me. I feel lucky. I am very happy for that.” Sunday evening on Rod Laver Arena will mark the first Nadal-Federer contest since the 2015 Basel final and their 35th battle overall. Nadal leads their rivalry 23-11, winning five of their past six meetings. It will be the first time since the 2011 Roland Garros final, which Nadal won, that they have contested a Grand Slam championship. It was a final few would have predicted at the start of the tournament, with Federer making his return to tour-level action after missing the final six months of 2016 due to injury, and Nadal having endured his own challenges due to injury and lack of form last season. “It’s special to play with Roger again in a final of a Grand Slam,” said Nadal. “I cannot lie. It’s great. It’s exciting for me and for both of us that we are still there and we are still fighting for important events. So that’s important for us, I think. That’s very special.” But Nadal has been back to close to his best as he powered through the bottom half of the draw, battling past NextGenATP star Alexander Zverev in five sets in the fourth round, before taking care of Gael Monfils and Milos Raonic for the loss of just one set to reach the semi-finals. His toughest test yet came in the form of Dimitrov, who opened 2017 on a 10-match winning streak, having captured his fifth ATP World Tour title in Brisbane (d. Nishikori), before taking advantage of Novak Djokovic’s exit to surge through his section of the draw. Dimitrov was bidding to capitalise on his strong run of form and improved mental fortitude to reach his first Grand Slam final. He pushed Nadal all the way in an exhilarating 4-hour, 56-minute contest, in what John McEnroe – commentating for Eurosport – described as the “match of his life”. Set 5
Nadal looked to hit straight back at the start of the fifth set, but Dimitrov held strong to thwart the Spaniard on three break points. Both men would then save more break point chances, Nadal in the second game and Dimitrov in the fifth game to see the Bulgarian lead 3-2. A run of 26 consecutive service holds was ended, though, as Nadal made the decisive breakthrough in the ninth game. Having fended off two break points in the eighth game, the Mallorcan came atDimitrov with all his ferocity, and broke the Bulgarian with a backhand winner down the line to serve for the match at 5-4. As he had done all match, Dimitrov refused to go away and denied Nadal on his first match point at 40/30 with an athletic reach, before then thwarting the Spaniard again with a forehand winner on his second opportunity at advantage. But at the third time of asking, Nadal fell to the floor in jubilation as Dimitrov’s shot landed long. With Federer having edged Stan Wawrinka in five sets on Thursday night, it is the first time in Grand Slam play that both semi-finals went to five sets since 2009 Roland Garros, and the first time at the Australian Open since 2002. Dimitrov, 25, was contesting his second major semi-final (also Wimbledon 2014). The right-hander, coached by Dani Vallverdu, will now have a week off before making his return at the Garanti Koza Sofia Open, where he will play an ATP World Tour event in Bulgaria for the first time.
The 35-year-old Swiss superstar, who recently returned to top-level tennis after a six-month injury lay-off, booked a spot in his 28th Grand Slam final with a victory over his compatriot Stan Wawrinka, the 2014 titlist and fourth seed. Federer will now compete for his fifth crown in his sixth Australian Open final on Sunday night, when he will attempt to become the first No. 17 seed to win a major since Pete Sampras won the final professional match of his career at the 2002 US Open. “I know I will have a chance to win on Sunday now,” said Federer. “That’s a great position to be in. Regardless of who it’s going to be against, I think it’s going to be special either way. One is going to go for his first Slam or it’s the epic battle with Rafa. All I care about is that I can win on Sunday. It doesn’t matter who’s across the net. But I understand the magnitude of the match against Nadal, no doubt about it.” Federer applied early pressure, forcing Wawrinka to recover from 0/40 on serve at 1-2 – Infosys ATP Scores & Stats indicates Wawrinka did so on nine of 26 occasions in 2016. Although Federer came through his own test, from 15/40 in the next game, he did do a good job of keeping Wawrinka off-balance by varying the direction of his groundstrokes. Federer survived a break point at 5-all, 30/40 and was soon gifted two straight errors from Wawrinka to take the 50-minute opener. In the second set, Wawrinka went into meltdown at 2:3 when two errors saw his serve get broken – as well as a racquet – to give Federer full control of their 22nd meeting. Although Wawrinka continued to battle, he left the court close to tears at the end of the second set. The 31 year old would now need to come back from an 0-2 sets deficit for the seventh time in his career. With strapping just below his right knee, following an off-court medical time-out, Wawrinka took his first tentative steps. Initially slow to move off his right leg, he grew in confidence and broke Federer’s serve with a forehand winner for a 3-1 advantage. Federer’s intensity dropped and two more breaks soon followed for Wawrinka. In a run of six games, Wawrinka led 1-0 in the fourth set. Although Federer broke back immediately for 1-1, fast forward to 4-4 and he was in big trouble at 0/40. Federer saved two break points with well-directed serves, but terrific movement from Wawrinka at 30/40 enabled him to flick a forehand crosscourt winner to break. The capacity crowd, including Rod Laver, were left stunned as the match went to a fifth and deciding set. Federer took the time to leave the court for treatment. “I felt tightness [in my leg] throughout the match, and I felt like it slowed me down,” said Federer. “I just hoped that maybe having the physio work on it, that it would make me feel better. But it didn’t. It’s not something I’m necessarily really worried about in any way. So that’s a good thing.”
Wawrinka narrowly missed a forehand down the line at 1-all, 30/40, with Federer in a perilous position at the net. Wawrinka then recovered from 0/30 in the next game, before missing another break point at 2-all. When Wawrinka struck a mid-court backhand long at 2:3, 15/30, the match turned in Federer’s favour. Federer was not to be denied and, having closed out the match to love, he will now play his 100th match at the Australian Open against Nadal or Dimitrov in Sunday’s final. “No, I didn’t feel more pressure,” said Wawrinka, when asked about the sixth game of the fifth set. “The game was really quick. New balls. He made two good returns to be 15/30. Then he put me under pressure. I made a bad choice [a backhand, then] a double-fault, and you’re down a break in the fifth. “[My injury has] been for sure an issue since the beginning of the tournament. Then again, it’s not an excuse at all. I always try to fight on the court, to find a solution. I made the semi-finals. I had the chance to win tonight [and] I had some opportunities in the fifth set… I gave everything.”Stats of the match.
4th quarterfinal: (9)Rafael Nadal d. (3)Milos Raonic 6-4, 7-6(7), 6-4
Rafael Nadal continues to grow in confidence. The ninth seed and 2009 champion reached his fifth Australian Open semi-final – and his first Grand Slam semi-final since 2014 Roland Garros – in stunning fashion on Wednesday night. Nadal avenged his recent loss to Milos Raonic, the third seed, at the Brisbane International presented by Suncorp, with a victory at Melbourne Park over the Canadian in two hours and 44 minutes. His 50th match win at the Grand Slam championship also helped him into the 24th major semi-final of his career. “It is good news – especially beating difficult players: [Gael] Monfils, [Alexander] Zverev and now Raonic,” said Nadal. “I think all of them are top players. So that’s very important for me, because that means I am competitive and playing well. I am just excited about being back in the final rounds of the most important events. I am here to try to win this. It is always difficult, but I fought and I worked hard to try to make that happen.” The 30-year-old Nadal, who is now 7-2 lifetime against Raonic, will next face No. 15 seed Grigor Dimitrov, who was a straight-sets winner over No. 11 David Goffin, on Friday. Nadal is 7-1 in his Head2Head series against Dimitrov, who won their last match 6-2, 6-4 in the 2016 China Open quarter-finals. Nadal targeted Raonic’s backhand early on, a clear tactic from fellow Mallorcan Carlos Moya, a former World No. 1 and Raonic’s former coach now working with Nadal. Raonic saved one break point in the fifth game, but lost his serve by striking an overhead long to gift Nadal a 4-3 lead. Nadal’s 12 winners, nine of 10 net points won, and just two unforced errors highlighted a dominant display in the 43-minute opener. Raonic took an off-court medical time-out – later confirmed to be an adductor injury – when he led 3:2 in the second set, having weathered a storm. Nadal lost his confidence off the ground, and at 4:5 he recovered from 15/40 – managing to save three sets points. Two stunning pieces of anticipation at 3/3 in the tie-break helped Raonic open a lead, but more set point chances went begging at 6:4 and 7:6. Three straight forehand errors by Raonic saw him walk to his chair after a pulsating 81-minute second set. “There were some opportunities in the second set, [but] other than that, there wasn’t much for me to hold onto,” said Raonic. “I think the first two [set points], he hit one good serve well, and the other one I didn’t cover the serve I should have covered. Then, after that, I think I rushed in the tie-break. I made two pretty poor mistakes off balls that didn’t have much [on them] in the middle of the court on my forehand side.” There were no break point chances in the third set, until the 10th game when 14-time Grand Slam champion Nadal raised his game and hurried Raonic into three successive errors. Having broken the Canadian to love, Nadal fell to his knees in celebration.
3rd quarterfinal: (15)Grigor Dimitrov d. (11)David Goffin 6-3, 6-2, 6-4
Dimitrov extended his perfect record in 2017, proving that hard graft during the off-season pays off after reaching his first Grand Slam championship semi-final in three years. The Bulgarian No. 15 seed dominated No. 11 seed David Goffin of Belgium over two hours and 12 minutes at the Australian Open on Wednesday, sealing his 10th win of the year with a backhand winner down the line. “After the first set, I felt a little bit better, for sure,” said Dimitrov, who also beat Goffin at the 2014 US Open. “Then, I felt I was in control of the match after that… I feel like I have all the tools to go further, and my job isn’t over yet. I’m looking forward to my match on Friday. I think I’m prepared. I think I’m ready to go the distance. I’m confident enough to say that I feel good physically, and overall on the court. Just going forward with the confidence that I have built up also from the previous tournament. Now with each match I’ve been feeling better and better. It just all comes pretty natural right now.” Dimitrov seized control immediately in taking a 3-0 lead inside seven minutes, and while Goffin fought back to level the score the Belgium’s serve was broken in a 14-point eighth game. Dimitrov lost four of his first service points and struck 14 winners during the first set, then regained the momentum after a competitive start to the second set – featuring three straight service breaks. There was no respite on serve for Goffin, who faced 15 break points and although he attempted to disturb Dimitrov’s rhythm with net rushes (winning 19 of 25 points) he was decisively broken at 3-all in the third set. While first-time Grand Slam quarter-finalist Goffin saved two match points at 3:5, minutes later Dimitrov hit his 33rd winner in a love hold.
2nd quarterfinal: (17)Roger Federer d. Mischa Zverev 6-1, 7-5, 6-2
Four-time former champion Federer set up a blockbuster semi-final at the Australian Open against 2014 titlist and fellow Swiss Wawrinka on Tuesday night. Federer, the No. 17 seed, ended the dream run of Andy Murray’s conqueror, Mischa Zverev, at Melbourne Park for a place in his 41st Grand Slam championship semi-final (and his 13th at the Australian Open). “I’m pleased with the way I started the match,” said Federer. “Right away, again, I got off to a great start against him, as I did against him a few years ago. After that, naturally everything’s easier. The second set was definitely a key to shut it down for him. It was good that I was able to break back after he played a good game there. Then in the third set, I think, I was rolling. It was a nice match. I think I played great. Mischa had a wonderful tournament, so well done to him.” Federer took advantage of early nerves for 29-year-old Zverev by winning the first five games – and losing seven points. The first set lasted 20 minutes. World No. 50 Zverev regrouped and covered the net to keep Federer on the back foot, but, ultimately, was left to rue a missed volley that could have edged him closer to a 4:1 lead. The doubts started to set in and Federer sensed his opportunity, fighting back to break to love for a 6:5 lead. Zverev kept battling, but his resistance faltered in the fifth game and a 26-point seventh game of the third set. Federer hit 65 winners overall, committing just 13 unforced errors in the one-hour and 32-minute encounter. “I think he did not really let me play,” said Zverev. “It’s more like his shots were a little bit different than Andy’s (Murray). It was definitely hard to read where he was going, where he’s returning. He just has so many more options. How he can, like, outplay me or pass me. It was different, definitely different.”
1st quarterfinal: (4)Stan Wawrinka d. (12)Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6(2), 6-4, 6-3
Fourth seed Stan Wawrinka remains on course to add to his 2014 Australian Open title by cruising past No. 12 seed and 2008 finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in two hours and 14 minutes on Tuesday. It was the 250th hard-court match win of his career. “It’s not easy to play against him,” said Wawrinka, during an on-court interview. “He’s a strong player. I think conditions were quite fast today [and] it was a bit windy. So not easy to control. I started to move a bit better, to be a bit more aggressive from the first shot and I think that’s made the difference.” Wawrinka came through a tight first set, but it was Tsonga who clinched the first service break after 80 minutes for a 4:3 lead in the second set. But Wawrinka broke back immediately to love, capitalising on forehand errors. It was the start of a six-game run for the Swiss, who saved one break point at 4:2 in the third set. The 31 year old advanced to his eighth Grand Slam championship semi-final when Tsonga pushed a lob long. He is now 5-3 lifetime against the Frenchmen. “I’m disappointed,” said Tsonga. “I wish I could have played a better match. I was not able to beat him today, because I was not enough good. That was the difference. He was a little bit better than me. ”It’s really a promising [start for me],” said Tsonga, when asked about his form at the tournament. “It’s good for me to play a quarter-final. After what I did at the end of last year, it’s still on the same level. But if I want to do better… Of course, I wish I could win today. I hope I will continue to learn for the next time.”
The fairytale run continued for Mischa Zverev as he produced a bold display of tennis on Sunday to shock top seed Andy Murray7-5, 5-7, 6-2, 6-4. “It was definitely the best match of my life,” said Zverev. “Not only because it was a best-of-five set match, it was at a slam. It was just incredible.” Competing in the fourth round of a Grand Slam for the first time, Zverev was unawed by his surroundings on Rod Laver Arena. He rallied from 1:3* (30/40) down in the first set by forcing Murray out of his game and even producing some vintage serve-and-volley moments, ultimately grabbing the opening set. But Murray was not going to go away quietly. Although both players struggled on serve in the second set, with five of the 12 games highlighted by service breaks, the top seed was able to take control in most of the baseline rallies. With Zverev serving at 5:6, Murray rifled a backhand winner on his first set point to level the match at one set each. Zverev cleaned up his serve considerably in the third set, landing 74 per cent of his first serves. He also continued to put pressure on Murray with his return, breaking the top seed twice to take a commanding advantage in the match. The German opened up the fourth set with an early break of serve and held his slight advantage the rest of the way. Serving for the match at 5:4, a forehand error from Murray wrapped up the contest in three 3 hours and 34 minutes. “I believed in myself. I believed in my game,” said Zverev. “I believed that playing serve and volley against him and slicing a lot, trying to destroy his rhythm was going to work, which it did in the end. “I felt comfortable going for three, four sets, even though it wasn’t that hot, but it was still pretty warm. I felt like I could hang in there with him, sometimes rally and come in quickly. I feel like everything just worked out well.” The win records a remarkable career turnaround over the past two years for Zverev, who was ranked No. 1,067 in the Emirates ATP Rankings in March 2015. The 29 year old made great strides back up the standings in 2016, returning to the Top 100 after a run to the quarter-finals of the Shanghai Rolex Masters (l. to Djokovic) and closing in on the Top 50 after making the semi-finals of the Swiss Indoors Basel (l. to Cilic). Fourth seed Stan Wawrinka survived a tight battle against Andreas Seppi on Sunday at the Australian Open in Melbourne, moving into the quarter-finals with a 7-6(2), 7-6(4), 7-6(4) win on Margaret Court Arena. “I think this match was the best match of the tournament so far,” said Wawrinka, who was taken to five sets by Martin Klizan in the first round. “I know that my level is there, that physically I’m feeling good. So most important is to win, to still be in the tournament. “I’m really happy to make the quarter-finals again. It’s a big result. I’m going to enjoy tonight and get ready for the next one.” Both players lost their serve once in the opening set, but mainly traded routine service holds. The Swiss star found a new gear in the tie-break, winning the final six points to grab the opening set. Wawrinka and Seppi didn’t drop serve in the second set, but it was the fourth seed who once again came out on top in the tie-break to take a commanding two-sets lead. Seppi had a chance to serve out the third set after breaking his opponent at 5-5, but was unable to capitalise on a set point opportunity. Wawrinka went on a five-point run in the tie-break to lead 6/3 and made good on his second match point to wrap up the win in two hours and 43 minutes. “It was a tough and close match, that’s for sure,” said Wawrinka. “Three tie-breaks, almost three hours. It was very close. No. 12 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga continued his love affair with the Australian Open on Sunday, not dropping serve as he thrilled the Melbourne crowd with a tight 6-7(4), 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 fourth-round win over Daniel Evans on Hisense Arena. The 2008 runner-up is into the quarter-finals here for the first time since 2013. Tsonga now plays fourth seed Stan Wawrinka for a place in the last four. The Swiss star leads their rivalry 4-3 and has won their past three matches. “It’s going to be a tough match,” said Tsonga. “I know he’s playing really good. It’s going to be important for me to be good in this match and play my best level. I think I will be ready. It’s going to be a good challenge for me to play against Stan.”Roger Federer dug in his heels to stop Kei Nishikori on Sunday at the Australian Open, rallying past the fifth seed 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 in three hours and 23 minutes. Federer secured a milestone 200th win over a Top 10 opponent, becoming the first active player to achieve the feat. “He played his heart out and I thought he played a great match, I’m happy to be a part of it,” said Federer. “He was hanging tough and playing really well on the big points. I was telling myself to stay calm and this is what I trained for in the offseason. This is a big moment for me in my career.” The four-time champion exhibited great resolve in fighting back for his 25th career five-set victory. He will feature in the quarter-finals at Melbourne Park for the 13th time in the last 14 years, with a date against Mischa Zverev awaiting on Tuesday. Federer won their previous two FedEx ATP Head2Head encounters, most recently on the grass of Halle in 2013. Federer fired a staggering 83 winners, including 24 aces, while converting seven of 18 break chances. But it wasn’t all smooth sailing for the 17th seed. Striking the ball with conviction and peppering the Federer backhand early and often, Nishikori burst out of the gates, breaking twice in a row for a 5-1 first-set lead. The Japanese was more aggressive in the initial stages, jumping on Federer’s second serve and crashing the net frequently. But the Swiss stayed the course, slowly chipping away at Nishikori’s lead and eventually drawing level at 5-all. Nishikori would take the opener in a tie-break, but momentum had swung firmly in his opponent’s corner. Federer streaked to a two-sets-to-one lead and later snatched a quick break for 2-0 in the decider, after Nishikori sent the match the distance. He would emerge victorious on his first match point with an emphatic overhead smash. “I didn’t expect him to play this well from the start and that put me on the back foot for the remainder of the match to some extent,” added Federer. “But I was able to wrestle it back in my favour. I got myself into the match and started to play the good sets that I knew I could. The question was could I hang with Kei until the very end. I was able to do that, so I’m super happy”. “You have a game plan and he’s got a game plan. Sometimes it doesn’t match up the right way for you. He was quick out of the blocks. I was accepting it and moving on with it, trying to at least find some sort of a rhythm going into the second set… I was still upbeat about my chances after that first set. I think it gave me something coming back into that set actually.” But the Swiss stayed the course, slowly chipping away at Nishikori’s lead and eventually drawing level at 5-all. Nishikori would take the opener in a tie-break, but momentum had swung firmly in his opponent’s corner. Federer streaked to a two-sets-to-one lead and later snatched a quick break for 2-0 in the decider, after Nishikori sent the match the distance. He would emerge victorious on his first match point with an emphatic overhead smash. David Goffin, the No. 11 seed, moved into his first Australian Open quarter-final on Monday, scoring a hard-fought 5-7, 7-6(4), 6-2, 6-2 win in Melbourne over eighth seed Dominic Thiem. The win marked a repeat victory for the Belgian, who also defeated Thiem in the third-round of the 2016 Australian Open. Goffin improves his FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry against Thiem to 5-3. “I’m tired, but feeling so happy. It was a really good match,” said Goffin. “I’m so happy that I found my way to find a solution in the second set. I served really well and then played two really good sets in the third and fourth.” The first set was punctuated by difficulty holding serve, with Goffin and Thiem’s strong returns producing five breaks in 12 games. But it was the Austrian who grabbed the critical break of serve at 5-all and then comfortably held to love in the next game to grab the early lead Both players traded service holds throughout the second set, but Thiem fought off four set points on his serve at 4:5. Goffin remained mentally tough and raced to a 3:0 lead in the tie-break, holding his slight advantage to level the match at one set each. Goffin appeared energised at capturing the second set and continued to relentlessly retrieve difficult shots from Thiem in the baseline exchanges. Meanwhile, the eighth seed struggled to find his range, hitting 16 winners to 30 unforced errors in the final two sets. Grigor Dimitrov booked his place in the Australian Open quarter-finals for the second time in three years on Monday. The No. 15 seed ended the run of Novak Djokovic’s conqueror, World No. 117 and wild card Denis Istomin, 2-6, 7-6(2), 6-2, 6-1 in two hours and 24 minutes at Melbourne Park. The Bulgarian remains unbeaten at 9-0 in 2017 – including winning his fifth ATP World Tour title at the Brisbane International presented by Suncorp (d. Kei Nishikori). Dimitrov capitalised on a hot day in Melbourne by striking 37 winners and winning 72 per cent of his approaches to the net against Uzbekistani Istomin, who received medical treatment on several occasions for a back complaint. He will next play Belgian No. 11 seed David Goffin, who beat Austrian eighth seed Dominic Thiem earlier in the day. ”It’s going to be a tough match without a doubt,” said Dimitrov. “David is an excellent player. In a way I know what to expect from him. We’ve practised against each other a few times this off-season. And he’s a very dangerous player. I just need to be ready mentally and physically for the battle… I think recently he’s been serving really well. He served his way out of trouble. I think this is one of his biggest weapons right now. For sure, he’s one of the greatest defenders out there.” World No. 3 Milos Raonic, the highest seed remaining at the Australian Open, secured his place in the quarter-finals for the third successive year by beating Spanish No. 13 seed Roberto Bautista 7-6(6), 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 in 2 hours and 51 minutes on Monday. Raonic, who hit 75 winners – including 33 aces (for a total of 93 aces at the major championship), will meet ninth seed and 2009 champion Rafael Nadal on Wednesday. Raonic trails Nadal 2-6 lifetime in their Head2Head series. “I was very fortunate to get the win today – there were some moments when it wasn’t looking so good,” said Raonic, during an on-court interview. “I was happy that I was able to find a way to pull through. And this atmosphere – especially when the roof closed, the noise stays in a little bit more, so it was great to be here. We live to see another day.” Raonic opened up a 3:0 lead in the first set, but Bautista worked his way back and led 5:1 in the tie-break. Raonic capitalised on his comeback with a service break to start the second set, but Bautista found holes in the Canadian’s baseline game. Bautista held three break points in the ninth game of the third set, after the match was briefly suspended due to a rain delay at 3:3, but Raonic escaped. At 4:5, Bautista double-faulted and then hit a forehand long to gift Raonic a commanding lead. Raonic then cruised to a 5:0 lead in the fourth set. Rafael Nadal recorded his fifth straight victory – and 13th win overall in 15 meetings – against Gael Monfils at the Australian Open in just under three hours on Monday night for a place in his 30th Grand Slam championship quarter-final. Ninth seed Nadal, who beat Roger Federer for the 2009 title, improved to 49-10 at Melbourne Park with a 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 victory over fellow 30-year-old Monfils, the No. 6 seed from France.