Three official matches into his comeback and Roger Federer is already turning heads, wowing crowds and staking a claim for the Australian Open title.
The Swiss may have returned from a six-month injury-enforced lay-off with no expectations but his straight-sets destruction of Tomas Berdych – the world No10 – on Friday will have undoubtedly changed that.
His 90-minute clinic against the Czech saw him fire eight aces, drop just two points on his first serve, face zero break points, win 20/23 points at the net, hit 40 winners (10 off of his famous one-handed backhand) and commit just 17 unforced errors.
Those are not numbers typically expected from someone who is supposed to be rusty and short on match-play.
“It’s just crazy how quick I got out of the blocks,” admitted Federer.
It was a performance reminiscent of his masterpiece against Andy Murray in the Wimbledon semi-finals in 2015. But he had already won four titles that year heading into Wimbledon, and was in great form throughout the previous six months.
The situation is very different this time around. At the Australian Open this past week, Federer hadn’t necessarily played that well in his opening two matches against Jurgen Melzer and Noah Rubin. But in the third round he simply did what he had to do.
As the No17 seed, he knew he would have to play a top player as early as the round of 32. And when that person turned out to be Berdych, someone who had beaten him six times before, Federer had no choice but to “come out of the blocks quickly”.
From his serve, to his backhand, to his net play, Federer was in the zone throughout the match and the stunned facial reactions coming from Berdych, and his coach Goran Ivanisevic, will surely become classic internet memes to be used to for many years to come.
But while Federer suffered no missteps in his first real test of the tournament, it’s worth noting that Berdych’s poor return game played a factor. Even Federer said so himself.
He told Swiss TV after the match: “I was disappointed in Berdych’s return, I expect a bit more from a top player.”
Don’t we all? Berdych continues to baffle, especially that his partnership with Ivanisevic was supposed to give him the aggressive edge and freedom which was missing from his game.
The Croat, who helped guide Marin Cilic to the US Open title in 2014 was also meant to help Berdych on the mental front but nothing we saw on Friday suggested any real progress has been made since they teamed up last August.
Then again, we don’t know what it feels like to be on the receiving end of Roger Federer masterclass. Still, it’s fair to expect a tougher fight from Federer’s next opponent, Kei Nishikori, who was equally impressive in his third round win over Lukas Lacko.
It is obviously too soon to get excited over Federer’s form but should he go on to win a record-extending 18th grand slam this fortnight, it would undoubtedly be his most remarkable trophy run of all.
Triumph would involve him possibly beating five top-10 players back-to-back (Berdych, Nishikori then potentially Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka, and finally Milos Raonic/Rafael Nadal).
Sounds like a monster task!
Unheralded Wild-Card Uzbek Denis Istomin produced the performance of his life to oust six-time Australian Open Champion Novak Djokovic.
“It is unreal,” said Istomin and indeed it was for the thousands present at the Rod Laver Arena as they witnessed arguably one of the biggest shocks in recent time.
Sport360 brings to you all the fascinating numbers and stats from this absorbing encounter – an upset that could perhaps have a huge impact on tennis history.
15 – Match Win-streak ended for Novak Djokovic at Melbourne Park (2015-17).
115 – Places difference on the ATP Ranking Charts between Uzbek Denis Istomin (ranked 117) and Serb Novak Djokovic (ranked 2).
2R – The Last time Djokovic lost a 2R Grand Slam Match was to Russian Marat Safin at the 2008 Wimbledon. Since then Djokovic has lost before the QFs only twice (3R at 2009 French Open – l. to Philipp Kohlschreiber & 3R at 2016 Wimbledon – Sam Querrey).
43-3 – Djokovic falls to 43-3 in 2R Grand Slam matches.
117 – Istomin is the lowest-ranked player to beat Djokovic in a Grand Slam. Prior to this loss, Safin was the lowest ranked player to beat Djokovic (ranked 75 – 2008 Wimbledon 2R).
1999 – The last Aussie Open defending champion to lose before the QFs was in 1999 when Czech Petr Korda (1998 Aus Open Winner) lost to American Todd Martin in the 3R.
Two defending champions have lost in the 1R of the Aussie Open. Roscoe Tanner (1977 Jan Aus Open Champion) lost to Chris Lewis in December 1977 and Boris Becker (1996 Aus Open Champion) was knocked out by Carlos Moya in 1997.
1 – This was Djokovic’s first loss in a deciding 5th Set since 2014 Aus Open (lost to Wawrinka – QF) ending his 7 match winning streak in 5-setters.
Del Potro – Del Potro (ranked 145 then) was the last player ranked outside Top 100 to defeat Djokovic (2016 Rio Olympics – 1R). Overall Djokovic is 94-8 against players ranked outside Top 100.
33-0 – Djokovic was 33-0 against players ranked outside Top 100 in Grand Slam matches.
40-1 – Since losing to compatriot Filip Krajinovic (ranked 319 then) in 2010, Djokovic was 40-1 against players ranked outside Top 100 (only loss to Del Potro – 2016 Rio Olympics).
1 – Istomin is the first WC to eliminate a defending champion at any major. He is also the 3rd WC to beat the Top 2 at a major since 1986 (Nick Kyrgios d. Rafa Nadal – 2014 Wimbledon 4R & James Blake d. Rafa Nadal – 2005 US Open 3R).
Hard-Court Slam – This is the 1st time Djokovic failed to reach the QF of a Hard-Court major since 2007 Aus Open (l. to Federer – 4R).
Asian – The last & only Asian before Istomin to beat Novak in a major was Kei Nishikori (SF – 2014 US Open).
Eugenie Bouchard crashed out of the Australian Open 2017 in the third round after suffering a defeat to Coco Vandeweghe.
Bouchard lost 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 to Vandeweghe at the Rod Laver Arena in well-contested match.
The above video shows how she went down swinging, taking the game into the third set.