Roger Federer defeated 21-year-old American Taylor Fritz 6-2 7-5 6-2 on Friday to move through to the fourth round for the 17th time in his past 18 visits to Melbourne Park.
In muggy conditions under the Rod Laver Arena roof, Federer came out blazing to set up a last-16 clash with emerging Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Young gun Tsitsipas recovered from a spectacular mid-match meltdown to become the first Greek player ever through to the fourth round of the Australian Open.
The 20-year-old 14th seed triumphed 6-3 3-6 7-6(7) 6-4 over Georgia’s Nikoloz Basilashvili in two hours and 54 minutes at Margaret Court Arena.
The win wasn’t without controversy, with the rising star hit with two code violations – one for an expletive-filled rant – after was forced to replay a set point that he went on to lose.
He settled down to win the third set in a tiebreak before completing victory in four sets, setting up a re-match of his clash with Federer at the Hopman Cup just over two weeks ago.
“I learned a lot since my last match with him,” said Tsitsipas, who fell to Federer 7-6(5) 7-6(4) in Perth.
“I know the patterns that he’s using a bit better now. He’s serving really well, so I’m going to have to utilise his, and take advantage of my returns as much as possible. I’m pretty sure he’s going to be serving well, so return games need to be aggressive and pressing a lot.
“He’s a legend of our sport. It will be a great day facing him in one of the best arenas, Rod Laver. I’m really excited for that match.”
Federer said he was happy to have played the Greek star so recently at the Hopman Cup.
“I think he played really well there. I actually did too. I thought it was really high quality tennis,” the 37-year-old said.
“This is obviously a different type of match, it being best of five, it being a 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 and 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 match-up 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.”
Nick Kyrgios, on debut in the commentary box for broadcasters Channel Nine, told Todd Woodbridge that the first set Federer played against Fritz was the “best set of tennis” he’d watched.
“From here, it was just Federer playing too good. Federer’s timing is scary good. He almost hits everything on the half-volley,” Kyrgios said. “(Fritz) is playing some really good tennis, he’s just caught Federer on a really good day.”
Fritz, 16 years Federer’s junior, managed just 13 points in Federer’s first-set demolition when the No.3 seed served at 92 per cent and made just two unforced errors.
The American picked up his act and pushed Federer in the second set, but when the big points arrived Federer was irrepressible.
Fritz was literally spun out by the Swiss at one stage, doing a 360 rotation on court as he looked to return a surprising shot.
Federer is marching on after another dominant performance on serve, failing to even face a break point.
“I wanted to get out of the block quickly because I knew of the threat of Taylor,” Federer said.
“I had extra focus to make sure I got off to that quick start. I had a really good feeling out here today against someone who can be very dangerous in the future.”
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