Battling Federer stands alone as he hits grand slam milestone

Roger Federer.
Roger Federer.
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Roger Federer became the first man in history to win 300 grand slam matches as the Swiss beat Grigor Dimitrov to reach the Australian Open fourth round.

Bulgarian Dimitrov was once dubbed Federer’s apprentice for his talent and elegant style of play, but it was the 34-year-old who proved himself the master, winning 6-4 3-6 6-1 6-4.

Federer was far from his free-flowing best and even looked flustered when Dimitrov clinched the second set, but an early break in the third quickly turned the tide.

It was one-way traffic thereafter as Federer sealed victory in two hours and 40 minutes to set up a fourth-round meeting with Belgium’s David Goffin.

“(That) didn’t come automatically, I had to push myself, remind myself what to do,” Federer said.

“These are the great matches to win, I tell you that, because you’re not going to feel 100 per cent great every single time when you go out there.

“But it’s important to win those matches maybe where you felt a little off.”

Federer and Dimitrov are good friends off the court and a video quickly circulated on the internet of the pair before the match, relaxing together as they waited to go on.

They were watching Maria Sharapova playing American Lauren Davis and one rally particularly excited Federer, who yelled and leapt out of his seat.

“We know each other quite well and we were pretty chilled going into the match,” Federer said.

“Sometimes you don’t look much at the other guy but with Grigor it’s different, like with other guys on tour. There are many guys I would speak to before a match. That was the situation (yesterday).

“I’m happy it still exists. We’re not that far down the road where it’s so professional where you can’t even look at the guy before you walk on court.”

Federer’s 300 grand slam wins include 17 major successes, while he has reached 27 finals and 38 semi-finals. This year’s Australian Open is his 65th consecutive appearance at a major tournament.

“It’s very exciting, I must tell you,” Federer said.

“Like when I reached 1,000 (career wins) last year, it was a big deal for me. It’s not something I ever aimed for or looked for, but when it happens, it’s very special.

“You look deeper into it, I guess, where it’s all happened and how, so it’s very nice. I’m very happy.”

British No 1 Andy Murray is not getting carried away by his perfect start at the Australian Open and insists he can play even better.

Murray has barely broken sweat in his opening two rounds in Melbourne after sailing past Germany’s Alexander Zverev 6-1 6-2 6-3 and then thrashing Australian Sam Groth 6-0 6-4 6-1 to make round three.

Two assertive displays – and just over three and a half hours spent on court – stand Murray in good stead as he prepares for today’s test against Joao Sousa, the 32nd seed from Portugal.

“It’s been a very good start, for sure. But I can still get better,” Murray said.

“I’ve had days, not just in slams, but in any tournaments, where I felt great, practised really well, and then gone on the court and felt horrible.

“Then sometimes, beforehand you might feel nervous, have a lot of doubts, and then you go out and play extremely well.

“It’s difficult to know as a player whether you’re going to go out there and hit the ball great or not, you just have to try to trust all of the preparation and practice that you’ve done.”

There will be tougher opponents to come for Murray, including Sousa, but the world No 2 has found his rhythm early, particularly against Groth, when he won all of the first nine games.

Also in action today is Johanna Konta, bidding to become the first British woman to reach a grand slam quarter-final since 1984.

She plays Czech world No 66 Denisa Allertova in round three and Jo Durie – who made the last eight at Wimbledon 32 years ago – has been impressed.

The Sydney-born 24-year-old – ranked 47th in the world – is also arguably the form player in her section, having ousted Venus Williams in round one to take her list of top-20 scalps to five since the US Open last year. 
“Jo can definitely do it and I wouldn’t be sad at all, it’s about time someone beat my record and got to a quarter-final of a slam,” Durie said.

“This is always a weird grand slam because you never quite know where you’re at with the top players.

“Parts of the draw always open up at the Australian Open and you get someone surprising coming through to make the quarter-finals and semi-finals.

“If they’re in form, they go through that little gap and I think here for Jo, playing like she is at the moment, that’s definitely possible. Why not?”