Australian Open: Federer saves seven match points to enter semis

Roger Federer is a relieved man after edging out Tennys Sandgren. Reuters

Melbourne: Roger Federer performed his second Houdini act of this year's Australian Open on Tuesday, saving seven match points en route to a nerve-wracking 6-3, 2-6, 2-6, 7-6(8), 6-3 comeback victory over American world No. 100 Tennys Sandgren.

Friday's third-round win against local hope John Millman, when the 20-time Grand Slam champion won six straight points from 8-4 down in the final set tie-breaker, was touted as the great escape.

His quarterfinal victory four days later was more epic still.

Tennys Sandgren
American world No. 100 Tennys Sandgren played arguably the match of his life. Reuters

Millman had a world ranking under 50 and had at least defeated the Swiss before, at the 2018 USOpen.

But Sandgren had never faced Federer, who in turn had never lost to someone as lowly-ranked as the American at Melbourne Park.

'Incredibly lucky'

"You've got to get lucky sometimes," Federer said with a smile. "I tell you that because in those seven match points you're not in control.

"I was just hoping that maybe he wasn't going to smash a winner, if he misses one or two, who knows what's going to happen? I think I got incredibly lucky today.

"... I don't deserve this one but I'm still standing here and I'm obviously very, very happy."

Federer started strongly, setting up an array of breakpoints before converting his sixth to go up 4-2 and take the opener, but his unforced error count kept piling up in the second as Sandgren, a quarterfinalist at the 2018 Australian Open, drew level.

Things got more messy for the Swiss in the third when he was broken early and then warned for obscene language, something that happens rarely to Federer on court.

Federer got involved in an argument with Serbian chair umpire Marijana Veljovic before taking a lengthy medical timeout that he later said was for a problem with his groin.

Sandgren had to wait almost nine minutes on court before Federer returned to resume the match but the American broke his opponent again, converting his sixth set point to nose ahead.

Sandgren, whose run to the last eight in 2018 was shrouded in controversy because of links to far-right activists on his social media account, hit 27 aces in the match and continued to put Federer's serve under pressure.

With his back to the wall, Federer shifted up a gear to save three match points on serve, with the Rod Laver Arena Crowd gasping every time he survived.

He saved four more during the tie-break to force a decider, amid delirium in the stadium.

Showdown with Djokovic

Federer rode the momentum in the final set, breaking Sandgren's serve in the sixth game before converting his first match point to set up a meeting with Novak Djokovic for a place in Sunday's final.

Djokovic beat Milos Raonic 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(1).

"Draws are not getting easier. With these lucky escapes, you might play without expectations because you know you should be skiing in Switzerland," Federer said.

"Lucky to be here, may as well make the most of it. I better feel better than today otherwise I am really going skiing."