Roger Federer already had a pretty favorable draw to the Australian Open semifinals before the tournament began.
But now that three seeded players in his section have fallen out of the draw, Federer’s path to a potential semifinal showdown with defending champion Novak Djokovic has opened up even more.
The No. 3 seed and 20-time major champ rolled into the third round by destroying Serbia’s Filip Krajinovic, the world’s 41st-ranked player, 6-1, 6-4, 6-1 on Wednesday. Federer served up 14 aces against no double faults while winning in 1 hour, 32 minutes.
Asked by John McEnroe on court if he ever felt sorry for his opponent, Federer smiled and said, “Yeah, I do feel a little bit sorry but you gotta take advantage of it.”
Three seeded players in his section were not so fortunate. No. 31 Hubert Hurkacz, Federer’s potential third-round opponent, lost to Australian John Millman in three sets. Millman, of course, stunned Federer in the fourth round of the 2018 U.S. Open in steamy conditions in New York.Today In: Business
“I almost passed out when I played against him in New York,” Federer said of Millman. “He had no problem. He never came to check on me if I passed out after the match.
“He’s a super good guy, unbelievably tough opponent. There’s not many guys fitter than him out there and those are the guys I respect the most out there. It’s going to be a great match with some great rallies and I hope you guys enjoy it.”
No. 18 Grigor Dimitrov, who beat Federer to reach the U.S. Open semifinals last fall, blew a 5-4, 30-0 lead on his serve in the fifth set and lost a heartbreaker to American Tommy Paul 6-4, 7-6(8), 3-6, 6-7(3), 7-6(3) in four hours and 20 minutes.
“I’ve never been a part of something like that,” said Paul, a 22-year-old from Voorhees, N.J.
Dimitrov had loomed for the 38-year-old Federer in the fourth round.
Another American, Tennys Sandgren, stunned No. 8 seed Matteo Berrettini of Italy 7-6, 6-4, 4-6, 2-6, 7-5. Berrettini, a U.S. Open semifinalist, was Federer’s potential quarterfinal opponent.
Federer can now reach the quarterfinals without playing a seeded opponent.
The Swiss entered as the fourth favorite to win his seventh Australian Open behind Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Daniil Medvedev. Per Oddschanger.com, he’s now at 8/1 to win the tournament.
Djokovic, the No. 2 seed, reached his 13th Australian Open third round by swatting aside Japan’s s Tatsuma Ito, 6-1, 6-4, 6-2.
The 32-year-old Serb is seeking his eighth Australian Open title and second straight after he routed Rafael Nadal in last year’s final.
Nadal has 19 career majors and would tie Federer in the record book with a victory in Melbourne. Djokovic looms close behind at 16 Grand Slam titles.
Federer, who won his most recent Grand Slam title at the 2018 Australian Open, conceded before the tournament that this two major rivals — who are both significantly younger — will surpass him.
“I think the way it’s going, obviously, Rafa and Novak will win more,” Federer told Howard Fendrich of the Associated Press in Dubai, “because they’re that good. And the season they had (in 2019), again, shows that there is more to come for them.”