The five-time Australian Open Champion Roger Federer defeated world no.80 Marton Fucsovics 6-4, 7-6 (3), 6-2 and reached Australian Open quarterfinal, where he is due to meet a familiar foe, Tomas Berdych.
Marton Fucsovics is a 25-year-old Hungarian with four challenger titles under his belt, currently sitting at his career-high ranking of no.80 (he’ll be around twenty places higher after this tournament). Before the 2018 Australian Open he hasn’t won a single Grand Slam singles match in three attempts (lost to Almagro, Muller, Mahut). Fucsovics took the advantage of a great draw, defeating Radu Albot in the first round. He then defied the odds against the 13th seed American Sam Querrey before smashing off the court an Argentinian clay-court specialist Nicolas Kicker. It’s been a great run for the Hungarian but his draw luck finally run out as in order to advance to the quarterfinals he would have to beat Roger Federer.
Federer is a 19-time Grand Slam champion, including five titles here at the Australian Open (2004, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2017). The 36-year-old Swiss has been turning back time this whole week with straight sets defeats of Aljaz Bedene, Jan-Lennard Struff and Richard Gasquet. He has never played Marton Fucsovics before but he practiced with the 11 years younger Hungarian last year before the Stuttgart Mercedes Cup.
It was the first time this Australian Open that Federer had to play during the day session, there’s been a little bit of controversy about the supposedly “preferential scheduling” as he’s been the only one so far playing three matches at night when the Australian summer heat is already gone. Monday wasn’t that warm though with the temperature averaging around 25C degrees (it was over 40 at some points during the last week!). However, I believe scheduling is simply a business decision and the only reason for Federer playing so much at night is that he’s the one drawing the most attention of the fans.
An interesting fact before we start – the last time Federer played a Hungarian was here in 2002 against Attila Savolt who is currently coaching no one else than Marton Fucsovics.
The Swiss won the toss and chose to serve. It wasn’t that swift of a start for the world no.2 but in game six he managed to create three break point chances. However, Fucsovics was more than just staying in the rallies, he was able to dominate longer baseline rallies and grind out Federer’s errors. At 3-3 the Swiss managed to successfully hit a behind-the-back volley still losing the point though. Service holds were becoming more and more routine for the five-time champion as he used his variety and net play abilities to quickly finish off the games. His return of serve was nowhere where it needed to be but he still managed to pull off some magic like a wonderful chip and charge approach finished with a perfect backhand full-stretch drop volley at 3-4. Having to serve to stay in the set Fucsovics got a little tight, netting a jumping backhand at 30-30 and Federer somehow woke up and hit two beautiful forehands to set up a smash for the set and took it six games to four.
— Eurosport UK (@Eurosport_UK) January 22, 2018
That didn’t turn Fucsovics off, he was still trying his best in order to stay in this match. Federer was unbelievable on serve, at one point winning 21 (!) consecutive points in the row (he broke that series with a double fault) but there wasn’t really much positive to say about his return game. He still reached two break points at 2-1 but somehow missed two volley shots to allow the Hungarian back into the game. The Swiss created another opening at 3-4 when he was 30-15 up on return but the way Fucsovics won the next two points it was clear that this is not the level of a player ranked at no.80 in the world. 4-5 0-15 down the Hungarian couldn’t finish the point even having the chance to smash three times but Federer got all of those balls back and it was worth it as Fucsovics then missed a forehand volley. The 25-year old managed to win the next four points and level the set again.
— Eurosport UK (@Eurosport_UK) January 22, 2018
Down 5-6, Marton Fucsovics had to dig deep again. At 30-30 Federer hit a sensational forehand return with an extremely sharp angle and the Hungarian just missed his answer. Federer wasted his set point with a forehand that went just long. The world no.80 held and the set had to be decided with a tie-break.
The first mini-break went to Federer as his opponent approached the net and the Swiss played two perfect passing shots. Fucsovics broke back with his own passing shot as the five-time champion played a little too easy volley. Federer set up three set points with a perfect forehand down the line and converted the first one with a great smash.
Federer had a chance to quickly run away with the match in the very first game of the third set and converted his second break point with an exquisitely angled backhand cross-court. At 1-3 Fucsovics played his sloppiest game of the match so far and allowed the Swiss to break again. Federer had little trouble finishing the match 6-4, 7-6, 6-2. The five-time champion lost just 16 points on serve didn’t face a single break point.
This match only confirmed what we already did know – Federer just isn’t there with his level at this year’s Australian Open, well at least not yet. He will definitely need to improve against Tomas Berdych in the quarterfinals. The Czech defeated Alex De Minaur and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in the first two rounds losing a set in both encounters before straight-setting Juan Martin Del Potro and Fabio Fognini. Federer is 19-6 against Berdych, including the last eight in a row. The last time the Czech won was in 2013 at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. However, he did hold two match points against the Swiss last year in Miami. They’ve also met four times at the Australian Open (4-0 Federer) including two straight-sets victories for the world no.2 in the last two editions of the tournament. In both of those matches the five-time champion was basically perfect and he would have to improve majorly to defeat Berdych that easily again.