Six-time Australian Open champion Roger Federer survived a huge scare as the Swiss almost crashed out of the competition in the third round on Friday. The Swiss produced a great fightback in the final moments of the match as he overpowered unseeded Australian John Millman 10-8 in a final-set tie-break to advance to the next round.
Breaking the tiebreaker as it happened
The first 12 points of the super tiebreaker was the four-hour-long five-setter in a nutshell. John Millman stepped up, hitting two winners and an ace. Federer did the rest, his groundstrokes flying long or crashing against the net.
At 4-6, a section of the Rod Laver Arena came unglued as local favourite Millman deposited a forehand down the line past Federer at the net. Tiebreaks are traditionally played to seven and the new rule caused some confusion on its Melbourne debut last year. Had this third-round match been played at the US Open Millman, rather than Federer, would have progressed.
“I felt the roar was big when he won his 7th point in the breaker. People must have thought it was over,” Federer joked in the press conference.
What followed after the first 12 points was a Federer masterclass, and Millman crumbling under pressure.
5-8 Federer capitalised on a weak return for a backhand wide off the court. Millman, on a roll, went for an audacious, off-balance backhand down the line which sailed over.
6-8 Federer controlled a 13-shot rally, positioning Millman firmly in the ad court before sending a forehand down the line. Millman rushed and hit the forehand long.
7-8 Millman’s second service point unfolded almost in an identical manner; only this time the Aussie hit it long cross-court without Federer’s direction-changing pressure. Millman needless review afterward a sign of the heat he was suddenly feeling.
8-8 Calibrations done, Millman avoided the errors from the previous points. He controlled the cross-court rally and didn’t fluster when the ball was sent down the line. Federer then pulled out a fresh trick, a sharp drop shot. Millman made the run, but the forehand was long again.
9-8 All even again, and Federer wouldn’t let it slip. His wide serve gave the Swiss a chance to charge the net. Millman again went for the high-risk option, and his lob missed the court.
10-8 Matchpoint and a serving Millman came to play. Quick, down the T and Federer was on the backfoot. An inside out forehand caught the corner, and Federer’s stretched backhand saved the day. Millman motioned to go for the inside out again, before drilling it down the line. Federer was ready with a cross-court winner.