What’s next for Roger Federer at this year's Australian Open? Coming back from two sets, 5-0, triple match point down in the third?
So far, it looks like the Swiss superstar’s survival instincts are at their sharpest. After clawing his way back from the brink of defeat in the third round against John Millman, Federer just pulled off the escape act of the tournament as he fended off seven match points against Tennys Sandgren in the quarterfinals to set up a semifinal blockbuster against Novak Djokovic.
With his legendary shotmaking prowess and the way it seems as though he’s gliding around the tennis court, Federer has made it look easy out there when he’s contesting a match on most occasions. That’s not to say he doesn’t know how to dig deep when it looks like hope is lost, though.
Here’s a look at some other occasions where the world No. 3 clawed his way back from the brink against some game opponents.
A First Against a Legend
As a young Federer was making his way up the rankings, he first had to surpass some of the greats in the sport. He beat Pete Sampras in their first and only encounter, but lost his first three matches against Sampras’ compatriot and chief rival, Andre Agassi. The eight-time Grand Slam champion almost made it four wins a row when he faced Federer in the round-robin portion of the year-end championships in 2003. Federer saved two match points in the third-set tiebreak to notch his first win against the American, 6-7 (3), 6-3, 76 (7). He would go on to beat him in straight sets in the final of the tournament.
The Grass Is Always Greener
Aside from winning the 2003 US Open, Andy Roddick reached four other Grand Slam finals, but ran into Federer in each of them. Their third encounter in a Wimbledon championship match came in 2009 and from the start, this appeared to be the one that would go in the American’s favor. Roddick never had a match point, but a missed volley at a crucial moment cost him an early lead. In the fifth set, Federer finally broke Roddick’s serve at 14-15, then closed out the match a game later, 5-7, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (5), 3-6, 16-14.
After a surprise semifinal loss to Marin Cilic in the 2014 US Open semifinals, Federer rebounded with two Davis Cup wins to put Switzerland into the final of the team event. His next regular tour event came at the Shanghai Masters and in his opening match, he faced the Argentine Leonardo Mayer. Federer won the first set, but dropped the next one and in the third, Mayer on multiple occasions had opportunities to clinch the biggest win of his career. A Mayer backhand that clipped the tape and fell on his side on one of the match points gave Federer new life and the Swiss was able to rally for the 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (7) victory.
That Mayer match wasn’t the only time Federer found himself on the brink of being bounced out of a tournament late in the 2014 season. Earlier in the summer, Stan Wawrinka recorded only his second win in 16 matches against his countryman, and came agonizingly close to posting another victory in the penultimate round at the ATP Finals. Despite earning four match points, though, Wawrinka was unable to seal the deal, and Federer was through to the championship match, 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (6). However, a back injury afterward left him unable to play the final.
Feat of Clay
After making the decision to skip the spring-summer clay-court stretch in 2017 and ’18, Federer made a return to the dirt last year. In his second tournament back, the Rome Masters, the Swiss won his first match against Joao Sousa in straight sets, then had to play Borna Coric the same day due to the weather causing a scheduling backlog. Coric had beaten Federer twice in 2018, but lost their most recent encounter in Dubai in February. The world No. 15 raced through the opener, 6-2, before Federer leveled the match by taking the second set 6-4. The decider went to a tiebreak, where Coric earned two match points. Two missed forehands by Coric evened things up, before Federer clinched the match on two big forehands of his own for a 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7) win.
In Melbourne, Federer lives to play another day as he takes on Marton Fucsovics for a spot in the quarterfinals.