Federer hands Taylor a swift exit

  • Michael Beattie

Swift, entertaining and sealed without fuss, Roger Federer booked his place in the fourth round of Australian Open 2019 with an easy 6-2 7-5 6-2 victory over American youngster Taylor Fritz.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion produced a sparkling display under the roof in his 100th match on Rod Laver Arena to set up a last-16 clash with another rising star, No.14 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Something about that triple-digit number is stalking the Swiss at Australian Open 2019, where a run to the semi-finals would see him reach 100 match wins and a record seventh Australian Open crown would be the 100th title of his career – a testament to the success, star power and longevity of the 37-year-old’s career.

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“The last 10 have been a lot of fun, maybe more fun than the first 10, I'm not sure,” admitted Federer, who knows he is far closer to the end of his time in the sport than the beginning when asked if could just keep playing while he is still beating top-50 players at a canter. 

“I don't think with four children and with the career that I have had, and my body – I want it to be somewhat healthy when I retire – I don't think that's a good idea, to be quite honest.

“For the time being, it's all good. Lights are on green. I'm injury-free, enjoying myself; the kids are having a great time too on the tour; my wife's happy. So for the moment there is absolutely no complaints and no plans. I'm just happy where I am in my life, in my career right now.”

From the outset his backhand was in devilish form, producing a flurry of winners and unplayable drives
Federer's signature dish was up to its old tricks

In Federer’s box, son Lenny was caught on camera playfully pawing at coach Ivan Ljubicic’s face in the first set, the Croatian giving the kid an expression of faux shock after he slapped his puffed-up cheek. It was much like the match in front of them – Fritz producing some fine shots without ever hurting Federer. Despite cracking 24 winners, he failed to fashion a single break point.

For the fans, however, it was a treat. The duo combined for 58 winners, Federer in particular enjoying the chance to put on a variety show in the cat-and-mouse rallies. From the outset his backhand was in devilish form, producing a flurry of winners and unplayable drives as he broke twice en route to a 5-1 lead, closing out the opener with his third love hold of the set.

Fritz at least enjoyed the experience, caught smiling time and again after coming off second-best in another dazzling rally. But the 21-year-old, playing in the third round of a major for just the second time, did get the chance to showcase his own repertoire as he stayed with Federer throughout the second set before cracking on serve in the penultimate game.

After slipping a break behind at the start of the third, Fritz’s challenge waned and Federer found more space to exploit to the delight of the day-session crowd. The world No.50 was left laughing and shaking his head after being flummoxed by one cross-court clip from the Swiss having anticipated a shot into the empty court down the line, spinning and still coming up short with a desperate lunge.

MORE: AO2019 men’s singles results 

Federer broke once more and ended things with a minimum of fuss in 88 minutes, having dropped just three of 43 points behind his first delivery. Sterner tests lie ahead, starting with Tsitsipas, but this was a sterling statement of intent from the two-time defending champion as he chases that record seventh title at Melbourne Park.

Points won
87 Roger Federer
61 Taylor Fritz

“I'm happy I played against him at the Hopman Cup,” Federer said of his fourth-round opponent. “I think he played really well there. I actually did too – I thought it was really high-quality tennis. 

“This is obviously a different type of match, it being best of five, it being the fourth round of a Slam, where we know now how we feel on this court. I think he had to work extremely hard against Basilashvili again today, because he hits hard. I saw him before I went out, really defending well, and a lot.

“I'm happy for him. He's playing so well, and I'm looking forward to the matchup with him. I think it's going to be a good one. I like how he mixes up his game and also comes to the net. So will I. I think we will see some athletic attacking tennis being played.”