It had been hard to get a read on the true level of Roger Federer after his first two wins against the World No.300 and World No.200 but he made a statement in round three with a dominant straight sets win to make it into the last 16 of the Australian Open. His opponent there will be the fifth seed Kei Nishikori.
On paper, Federer’s third round matchup with Berdych had looked a potentially tricky one with the Czech having a decent record against him. In reality, the match was never close. Federer dropped just two points on his first serve, contributing to a situation that saw him face not a single a break point. The often wasteful Federer was also deadly on return, winning four of his five break opportunities in the 6-2 6-4 6-4 victory. “It’s just crazy how quick I got out of the blocks. That’s what I was hoping for, because I wasn’t able to do that in the first two matches.” he said.
After struggling past Andrey Kuznetsov in round one, Nishikori saw off Jeremy Chardy and Lukas Lacko in straight sets to make it this far getting broken just once in the latter match. Federer was very complimentary of a player who has troubled him a number of times in his career. “I’m a big fan of his game. He’s got one of the best backhands out there. I love how he can crush it down the line or crosscourt. He’s got wonderful second serve returns.” he said of Nishikori who currently has a 2-4 record over Federer. That includes a three match winning streak although Nishikori’s 2014 Miami win is the only match on an outdoor hard court between the two until this one.
The Berdych victory, especially the nature of it, showed Federer still has plenty to give at the top. Nishikori is a further step up for him but he has handled the Japanese well in their recent meetings. Despite the current rankings gap, the bookmakers still have Federer the favourite which seems fair after Friday’s victory alongside the head to head. “I think I really like this court and condition. Today was much different conditions, actually. Was very slow. There was more rallies. I think it was better for me.” commented Nishikori after his match. Federer will need to maintain the high serving level of the previous match to avoid getting drawn into long rallies where the match will begin to favour his opponent.
Roger Federer in four sets