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Australian Open 2017: Roger Federer defeats Kei Nishikori in mammoth five-setter

Federer will now play Mischa Zverev in the quarter-finals, his 13th Australian Open QF in 14 years.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 22:  Roger Federer of Switzerland celebrates winning in his fourth round match against Kei Nishikori of Japan on day seven of the 2017 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 22, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)
A jubilant Federer celebrates his three-hour, five-set win over the fifth seed today

Former World No. 1 Roger Federer today took a five-set win over Japanese 5th seed Kei Nishikori 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3. to progress to the quarter-finals of the Australian Open.

This will be Federer’s 13th Australian Open quarter-final in 14 years.

The strongly-contested match saw Nishikori take an early – and seemingly strong lead, with the World No. 5 racing to a 5-1 lead as the set looked all but done for the Swiss. But Federer, with some big serves, outfoxed Nishikori as both players sent each other running across court. 

As he routinely broke back, Federer pulled the match back to take the first set to tiebreak. Nishikori took a quick minibreak and played some strong defensive tennis in the tiebreak, and despite a couple of aces from the Swiss, more than held his own to win the first set on tiebreak.

Hoping to carry that momentum into the second, both players found a steady groove to hold their respective service games. Those games quickly got longer and longer, with Federer playing ‘long-term’ tennis as he carefully built up points, and some well-played low volleys evaded the otherwise agile Nishikori. That gave Federer his crucial break of serve in the second, a break that Nishikori never fully recovered from. 

The Japanese ace went on to lose the second set 6-4, perhaps crucial for Federer in terms of staying in the match mentally, although he has been immensely successful before from two sets down. 

That is by no means to say that Nishikori did not play some incredible tennis here. Clearly in form, the 29-year-old played some stunning and powerful forehand volleys, and more than showed his on-court agility here on Rod Laver Arena. 

Nishikori ably anticipated a number of Federer’s trick-shots, returning quickly and effectively to the Swiss, who nevertheless raced to a 5-1 lead – that he consolidated at 6-1 with a triple break  of serve. 

Federer won the third set in 26 minutes after building up incredible momentum.

He began the fourth set with two consecutive aces, establishing dominance early on, and the usually-calm Nishikori was seen, in a rare outburst, throwing his racquet to the ground. But the ace consolidated despite having lost the previous 5 games, to engage Federer in quick, powerful rallies. 

After taking a quick 5-3 lead, Nishikori, now in positive spirits and spurred on by his own success, took the fourth set 6-4 – ensuring a fifth and final set would be played for the match.

Federer, however, took the early break of serve in the final set for a 2-0 lead, and en route hit ace upon ace; it was unfortunately at this point that Nishikori, who struggled with pain from an old hip injury over the winter, called a medical time-out, receiving physiotherapy on court for his injuries.

Despite the pain, the fifth seed soldiered on with some strong one-handed backhand shots and forehand volleys, but nothing was enough in the end as Federer, who hit 24 aces in that match, won the mammoth five-set, 3hour 23 minute match.

The Swiss hit 83 winners to Nishikori’s 42, with 47 unforced errors to Nishikori’s 32.

The former No. 1 will now play Mischa Zverev, who earlier today ousted top seed and World No. 1 Andy Murray from the Australian Open. 

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