Roger Federer Must Earn Australian Open Semifinals Spot to Silence Critics

R. Cory Smith@@RCorySmithSenior Writer IJanuary 19, 2014

Roger Federer of Switzerland celebrates his win over Teymuraz Gabashvili of Russia during their third round match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014.(AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
Aaron Favila/Associated Press

Roger Federer is a 17-time Grand Slam champion and considered one of the greatest players to ever grace a tennis court.

The dominance Novak Djokovic is currently experiencing at the Australian Open is similar to what Federer accomplished by winning five straight Wimbledon titles and five straight U.S. Open titles. From 2004 to 2007, there was no more dominant player in the world than Federer.

But after making the semifinals in just one Grand Slam last season, those days seemed long gone. The 32-year-old seemed to be in the twilight of his illustrious career and not mentioned in the "big four" equation anymore with Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray viewed as the dominant players.

Rather than talking about how dominant he played in his last match by winning in straight sets, Federer said he was just happy to advance, according to the Australian Open's official Twitter account:

After being eliminated last year in the second round and fourth round of Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, respectively, questions started about whether he would retire. But after opening the season by reaching the finals of the Brisbane International in Brisbane, Federer is now in the fourth round of the Australian Open with a familiar opponent in his way.

On Monday, Jan. 20, at 3 a.m. ET, Federer will face the same opponent he's played 14 times in the past when he steps on the court against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the No. 10 player in the world. In their 14 matches, Tsonga has only won five but said he is looking for revenge, according to Jake Niall of The Sydney Morning Herald:

For me, it's the possibility to take revenge because last year I lost to him in a quarter-final. It's a good opportunity to play him again and, you know, it's always nice to play against such a good player.

Though most players in the world don't necessarily look forward to facing Federer, Tsonga's success against him appears to give him some confidence going in.

Niall points out a conversation that Tsonga had with a reporter when talking about his upcoming match and his chances against Federer:

Tsonga differs from the vast majority of players in that he's beaten Federer five times (he's 5-9 lifetime) and two of those victories were in majors. One was a stirring quarter-final at Wimbledon, when the explosive Tsonga wiped off a two sets to nil deficit. Tsonga, when asked whether this next match represented his ''best chance'' against Roger in a slam, he was quick to correct: ''I already did (beat him) twice.''

With a victory over Tsonga, Federer would reach at least the quarterfinals for the 11th straight year. But with Federer, the expectation is still a semifinals visit—unfortunately, his next opponent would likely be Andy Murray, now the No. 4 player in the world.

That would mean in order to just make the semifinals, Federer would have to take down a player who made the finals in Melbourne in three of the last four Australian Opens. Murray also ousted Federer in the 2011 and 2013 semifinals after he was defeated by Federer in the 2010 final.

Federer was the last player to claim a title in Melbourne before Djokovic began his reign of dominance at the Aussie Open. But at 32 years old and not winning a Grand Slam since 2012, Federer simply making the semifinals with a win over Murray would go a long way in silencing the critics that believe he should call it a career.


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