MELBOURNE, Australia -- Roger Federer took his time about
this one -- needing 4½ hours and five sets to advance at the
Lleyton Hewitt took things a step further. The Aussie set a
record for the latest finish for a day's play at a Grand Slam. He
beat 2006 runner-up Marcos Baghdatis 4-6, 7-5, 7-5, 6-7 (4), 6-3,
completing the marathon at 4:33 a.m. local time Sunday.
Hewitt and Baghdatis went on court at 11:47 p.m. Saturday, the
last scheduled match at Rod Laver Arena on Day 6, and Hewitt ripped
a forehand winner on his fifth match point 4 hours, 45 minutes
There was never a letup in the tension. Starting when Federer
was forced to rally before outlasting 49th-ranked Janko Tipsarevic
6-7 (5), 7-6 (1), 5-7, 6-1, 10-8 to reach the fourth round of the
tournament he has won the last two years.
That pushed back the night session two hours.
Then Hewitt was up two sets to one and 5-1 in the
fourth when things started to go wrong. He wasted one match point
in the eighth game of that set and three more in the ninth game of
the fifth before he broke Baghdatis to finish off the day.
"It wasn't easy for both of us. Obviously, an incredible day of
tennis. For Roger Federer to go five sets, how often does that
happen?" Hewitt said. "It's tough for everyone. Marcos and I are
in the same boat."
Tipsarevic, who has never has reached a singles final, could be
closing the gap on him after playing the match of his life and gave
Federer everything he could handle with the packed crowd screaming
on every point.
"I went on court with the idea that I can win," the Serbian
said. "I was close. I lost because he was better in the important
moments of the match."
Federer, seeking his 13th Grand Slam crown, needed each of his
personal best 39 aces -- 14 more than his previous mark in one match
-- to fend off the 2001 Australian Open junior champion.
"I don't often get to play five-setters unless they're against
Nadal at Wimbledon," Federer said, referring to his rivalry with
No. 2 Rafael Nadal. "It was good to be part of something like
this. It's a pity you can't have draws in tennis."
He beat Nadal in five sets in the Wimbledon final last year.
Federer has reached the finals of the last 10 Grand Slam events,
winning eight of them and losing two to Nadal -- both at the French
Federer was untouchable in his first two matches, dropping only
six games in six sets. He had numerous chances to take control, but
Tipsarevic saved 16 of 20 break points against him until Federer
finally cashed No. 21 after rallying from 40-0 as the Serbian
served at 8-8 in the fifth set.
Tipsarevic said his strategy was simple.
"Be aggressive, and then try to make him work for the points
that he's winning," he said. "Against Roger it's so hard, because he's
playing every point. Even when you're up like 40-0, the game is
far, far from over."
After losing nine matches that were decided in five sets, Blake
has won his last two -- here and in the second round at the last
U.S. Open against another Frenchman, Fabrice Santoro.
"That's got to be my biggest comeback -- down two sets to love,
two sets to one, two breaks; 4-1 in the breaker, 5-3 in the
breaker," Blake said. "Just seemed like every time there was a
mountain to climb ... couldn't have been a better feeling than to
accomplish what I did."
No. 7 Fernando Gonzalez, who lost the Australian final last year
to Federer, was ousted 6-2, 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-1 by Croatia's Marin Cilic, who had never gone past the first round in three previous
majors. Cilic, who called it his best performance, faces Blake
While a few Serbian flags were scattered about the arena -- the
roof was closed because of rain that postponed matches on outside
courts -- Federer fans dominated, including one holding a sign
reading "Federer Express."
The Swiss star was nearly derailed before extending his winning
streak at Melbourne Park to 17 matches, tied for fourth-best behind
Andre Agassi's record of 26 in a row.
Federer, who last lost a set in this event while beating
Baghdatis in the final two years ago, started in top form again,
ripping seven aces in his first four service games. But the
Serbian, looking like a grad student in his dark-rimmed glasses and
short beard, forced a tiebreaker, where the only point that went
against serve came with Federer facing set point at 5-6. Tipsarevic
ripped a forehand crosscourt pass that dropped just inside the
Tipsarevic fended off five break points in the second set before
faltering in the tiebreaker. Tipsarevic rallied from 15-40 while
serving at 4-5 in the third set, then broke in the next game as
Federer lost two aces to successful challenges by Tipsarevic, who
then held for the set.
As he has done so often, Federer seemed to find an extra gear,
running off five straight games to take the fourth set and even the
Tipsarevic saved two break points while serving at 2-2 in the
deciding set, then a match point at 8-8 before Federer nailed a
backhand volley winner to take the last break. Federer held for the
match when Tipsarevic netted a backhand to end it in 4 hours, 27
Federer shouted in relief as he pumped his fist.
"What a great victory," he said.