Roger Federer – The Australian Open Story
Roger Federer delighted and amazed Melbourne over two decades as fans flocked to the Australian Open each year.
Allow Tennishead to guide you on the journey of the Swiss legend from young pretender to bona fide tennis royalty Down Under.
1. The debut – 2000
After competing reaching the boys’ singles semi-final in 1998, Federer made his senior main draw debut at the Australian Open in 2000. After competing at the French Open and Wimbledon the previous year, he was yet to claim a Slam main draw win.
That changed in Melbourne when the 18-year-old defeated then 27-year-old former world number two Michael Chang 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (7-5). Federer backed it up with a win over world number 104 Slovakian Jan Kroslak, 7-6 (7-1), 6-2, 6-3.
He eventually fell to Arnaud Clement in the third round in straight sets, but the Slam legend of Federer was born Down Under.
2. The rise – 2001-2003
Federer went out in the third round again in 2001, again losing to Clement in straight sets. In 2002 he defeated Michael Chang once more in the first round.
In the third round, he downed Rainer Schuettler in straight sets to reach the second week in Melbourne for the first time. There he fell to world number nine Tommy Haas in a tight affair. The Swiss had a match point at 6-5 in the fifth set but ultimately fell 7-6 (7-3), 4-6, 3-6, 6-4, 8-6.
The next year Federer met another tough prospect in the fourth round, 12th ranked David Nalbandian. Again the match went five sets as the 21-year-old succumbed 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3.
3. Federer triumphs – 2004
Now a Slam champion with Wimbledon 2003 under his belt, Federer was hungry for more. A win over home talent Lleyton Hewitt took the Swiss to his first Australian Open quarter-final. There he had a chance at revenge over David Nalbandian. And he took it with both hands to win 7-5, 6-4, 5-7, 6-3.
Next came world number three Juan Carlos Ferrero, the recent US Open finalist. Federer despatched the Spaniard with ease 6-4, 6-1, 6-4 to reach his second Slam final in three events. He took on Marat Safin, the Russian back to top form after falling down the rankings. But Federer had too much for him, claiming the trophy 7-6 (7-3), 6-4, 6-2. Straight sets, just like his maiden Wimbledon triumph.
4. The vengeance – 2005
One year and two more Major crowns later, Federer was the dominant force on the ATP tour. Ranked number one, he tore through to the semi-finals without dropping a set. There he met Safin again, the Russian back up to fourth in the rankings.
A classic transpired as the pair juked it out for more than four and a half hours. Safin eventually emerged victorious 9-7 in the fifth to reach a third Australian Open final, going on to win his first over home favourite Hewitt.
5. Federer warms his throne – 2006-2010
Federer reigned Down Under with three of five titles from 2006 to 2010. In 2006 he defeated Marcos Baghdatis in four sets in the final, but 2007 was an immaculate run. The Swiss won the tournament without dropping a set. His campaign included consecutive wins over 15th ranked Novak Djokovic and top 10 pros Tommy Robredo and Andy Roddick before downing world number nine Fernando Gonzalez in the final 7-6 (7-2), 6-4, 6-4.
Federer was just the fourth man in the Open Era to complete such a perfect run. Ken Rosewall achieved the feat in Melbourne in 1971, Ilie Nastase did so in Paris in 1973, and Bjorn Borg did it on three occasions at Wimbledon 1976 and at the French Open in 1978 and 1980.
In 2008 Federer was stopped by eventual champion Djokovic in the semi-finals. The next year he was chasing a men’s record-equalling 14th Slam title. The Swiss beat Safin, Tomas Berdych, Juan Martin del Potro and Andy Roddick to reach a fourth Australian Open final. There he faced a familiar rival in an unfamiliar place, Rafael Nadal in their first Australian Open meeting.
After taking his Wimbledon throne just months earlier, Nadal did the same to Federer in Melbourne. The 5-7, 6-3, 6-7 (3-7), 6-3, 2-6 loss crushed the Swiss, but he would be back soon. The very next year he returned to the final, downing Andy Murray in straight sets 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (13-11). This saw him equal Andre Agassi on an Open Era record four titles at the Australian Open.
6. So close yet so far – 2011-2016
At the next six events the four-time champion reached five semi-finals but not one final. In 2011 he was stopped by Djokovic in the last four. Then it was Nadal in 2012, again in the semis. 2013 was Murray, the Brit downing Federer in five sets to reach the final. Nadal was the barrier again in 2014 as he took his spot in the final.
2015 was most disappointing as the 17-time Major winner fell to fellow veteran Andreas Seppi in the third round. This was his earliest exit in Melbourne since 2001, and only his second loss before the fourth round of a Slam since the 2004 French Open. In 2016 he was back in the semi-finals, but again no further as Djokovic stopped him in his tracks. The Serb also overtook Federer’s record Melbourne tally, 2016 being his sixth title there.
7. A Federer resurgence – 2017-2018
Outside the top 10 for the first time in 14 years. No Australian Open titles since 2010. No Slam crowns since Wimbledon 2012. Was the success story finished for Federer in Melbourne?
In his first event since Wimbledon 2016, no one could predict what would come next from an injury-recovered Federer. The 35-year-old picked up top 10 wins over Berdych and Kei Nishikori to reach the quarter-finals. He then dismissed surprise quarter-finalist Mischa Zverev and compatriot Stan Wawrinka to make his first final for seven years. And who else but Rafael Nadal was there to meet him.
Their first Major final clash since 2011 was a classic as ever, with Federer winning on a tense hawk-eye call. He was the oldest men’s Slam champion since Ken Rosewall claimed the trophy Down Under at 37 in 1972.
A year on and now ranked number number two in the world, Federer was chasing an astounding 20th Major title. He reached the final without dropping a set before facing Marin Cilic, the same man he downed in the Wimbledon final the previous July. As against Nadal in 2017, the match went five sets. Again Federer came out on top for a then record-equalling sixth Melbourne crown.
8. An unsaid goodbye – 2019-2020
The two-time defending champion got off to a strong start in 2019. Three straight sets wins over Denis Istomin, Dan Evans and Taylor Fritz saw him take on 15th ranked Stefanos Tsitsipas in the fourth round. The young Greek was in top form and downed Federer 6-7 (11-13), 7-6 (7-3), 7-5, 7-6 (7-5) to reach his first Major quarter-final. He went a step further before falling to Rafael Nadal in the last four.
The final farewell for Federer came in 2020, though nobody knew it at the time. Now 38, the Swiss reached the third round before downing Aussie John Millman for his 100th career victory in Melbourne, the first man to achieve the feat. Two more wins took him to the semi-final, defeating Tennys Sandgren 6-3, 2-6, 2-6, 7-6 (10-8), 6-3 in the quarter-finals after saving seven match points.
His final match came against Djokovic, the pair’s fifth meeting at the Australian Slam. The world number two won straightforwardly 7-6 (7-1), 6-4, 6-3. After Federer missed the 2021 and 2022 event with injury and retired in September 2022, he never graced the Melbourne hard courts again as a professional.
Federer Career Record at Australian Open
Federer made 21 consecutive appearances at the Australian Open from his 2000 debut to his last campaign in 2020. He played 117 matches, winning the title six times.
Win-loss: 102-15, 87% win percentage (most wins Open Era, man or woman)
Title Strike Rate: 6 of 21 (2nd for most titles Open Era among men, 3rd overall men and women)
Finals record: 6-1
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