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Federer to face Berdych early for first time in nine years

Tennis - Australian Open - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - 18/1/17 Switzerland's Roger Federer hits a shot during his Men's singles second round match against Noah Rubin of the U.S. .REUTERS/Edgar Su
Tennis - Australian Open - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - 18/1/17 Switzerland's Roger Federer hits a shot during his Men's singles second round match against Noah Rubin of the U.S. .REUTERS/Edgar Su

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - The last time Roger Federer met Tomas Berdych before the fourth round of a tournament, the Czech was 22 years old and the pair were at the Beijing Olympics.

Since that third-round encounter, which Federer won, they have met 13 times in knockout matches, 11 of which have been in quarter-finals or later.

On Friday, they headline the men's top half of third round action at the Australian Open in the final match on Rod Laver Arena after a quirk of the draw due to the 17-times grand slam champion's knee injury last year.

Federer, who tore the meniscus in his knee at the Australian Open, was forced to have surgery after Wimbledon. He did not play again and dropped to 17th in the world entering this season's opening grand slam in Melbourne.

The 35-year-old Swiss has won the last five matches against the Czech -- including last year's Melbourne Park quarter-final and holds a 16-6 record overall, though he was wary of placing too much emphasis on that.

"I know I've got to lift my game a little bit," Federer said. "The court plays fast and he's caused difficulties for me in the past on faster courts; Cincinnati, New York, Wimbledon, Olympics in Athens.

"I know what he's got."

Federer and Berdych will no doubt also be keeping an eye on the match between fifth seed Kei Nishikori and Lukas Lacko, with the winner of that earlier clash on Margaret Court Arena their fourth round opponent.

World number one Andy Murray, who practised on Thursday with little sign of an ankle injury he suffered in the second round, is also in action against big-serving American Sam Querrey on Hisense Arena.

Women's champion Angelique Kerber will be hoping to iron out some of the wrinkles that have affected her first two rounds when she faces Kristyna Pliskova.

(Writing by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)

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