A 35-YEAR-OLD Roger Federer rolled back the years on Friday in Melbourne, treating those in attendance at Rod Laver Arena to a display of his vintage best as he steamrolled Tomas Berdych to reach round four.
Advancing to an even trickier-looking tie with Kei Nishikori, Federer beat world number 10 Berdych 6-2, 6-4, 6-4, having been in control from the early exchanges and delivering a masterful performance, particularly on serve.
The return to form of the 17-time major winner would perhaps have stolen all of the limelight on day four, such was the manner of the performance in a match where many expected Federer to struggle. But for the second time this week, Britain’s Dan Evans upset the odds to keep his incredible Australian Open run alive, this time beating home favourite Bernard Tomic 7-5, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (3 ), in the process knocking the last Australian male out of the competition.
Last week the 26-year-old from Birmingham produced a surprise run to the final in Sydney, to reach a career-high ranking of 51 ahead of his first round match with Facundo Bagnis on Monday. Evans then sent shockwaves throughout the draw when he dumped out world number seven Marin Cilic in four thrilling sets in round two. His victory over Tomic today sets up the chance at an ever bigger upset on Sunday.
There he will meet Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in a tie that will surely be a bridge too far for the affable underdog, but whatever the result, Evans will have experienced a career-best run and will have broken into the world’s top 50 for the first time. Tsonga secured his passage to round four today with a 7-6 (4), 7-5, 6-7 (8), 6-3 win over Jack Sock. Nishikori, who Federer faces in what is effectively an eliminator for a quarter-final match-up with Andy Murray, disposed of Lucas Lacko in three, winning 6-4 each set.
Earlier, Murray had shaken off the ankle injury sustained in his last match to beat Sam Querrey in straight sets, coming through 6-4, 6-2, 6-4. The Scot will play Mischa Zverev – older brother of Alexander – in the next round in what should be a relatively straightforward passage to meeting the Federer-Nishikori winner. Elsewhere in the men’s draw, Stan Wawrinka recorded a 3-6, 6-2, 6-2, 7-6 (7) win over Victor Troicki and will next play Andreas Seppi.
Defending women’s champion Angelique Kerber swept aside Kristyna Pliskova (not to be confused with twin sister Karolina, who remains in the draw) 6-0, 6-4 to advance to the fourth round. World number one Kerber next plays American CoCo Vandeweghe, who enjoyed a three-set win over former semifinalist Eugenie Bouchard, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5.
Meanwhile, 2016 French Open champion Garbine Muguruza also advanced to round four with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Anastasia Sevastova and will next play Sorana Cirstea, who beat American Alison Riske 6-2, 7-6 (2). And a player older than Federer also continued to defy Father Time on Friday. Equaling, if not bettering the early rounds form of younger sister Serena, 36-year-old Venus Williams stormed into round four with a 6-1, 6-0 demolition of Duan Ying-Ying.
Williams will next take on world number 181, Germany’s Mona Barthel, in round four and in this imperious form, she’s a threat to any player in the draw as she looks for her first major crown since 2008. Unlike Serena, holder of the coveted ‘career grand slam’, Venus has never lifted the title in Melbourne, with all seven of her grand slam titles coming at Wimbledon or the US Open.
With the sisters in opposite halves of the draw, the prospect of an Williams final remains alive.