Federer overcomes slow start, reaches Australian Open QFs

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Roger Federer needed some time to get going in the Australian Open’s fourth round, a match after a draining and difficult escape in which he was two points from defeat.

To be precise, he required a full set to get sorted.

After seeming sluggish while dropping the opener, Federer quickly righted himself and pushed through the next three sets without a hitch, reaching the 57th Grand Slam quarterfinal of his career by coming back to beat Marton Fucsovics 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 on Sunday.

In the first set, Fucsovics noted, “Roger was missing a lot.”

But Federer, as he himself put it, “Finally found a way. Had a good start to the second set and eventually it became easier.”

When he takes on Tennys Sandgren, a 28-year-old from Tennessee, on Tuesday, it’ll be the 38-year-old Federer’s record 15th quarterfinal at the Australian Open. He has won the title at Melbourne Park a half-dozen times, part of his men’s-record 20 major championships.

Federer kidded around about Sandgren’s sport-appropriate first name; he is named after his great-grandfather.

“He was not going to be a baseball player, that’s for sure,” Federer told the Rod Laver Arena crowd through a wide smile during his post-match interview.

Then, doubling down, Federer went on: “I’ve never played against Tennys. Played a lot of tennis in my life, but never against Tennys.”

The other quarterfinal on that side of the bracket is defending champion Novak Djokovic against No. 32 Milos Raonic of Canada.

The fourth-round matchups Monday: No. 1 Rafael Nadal vs. No. 23 Nick Kyrgios, No. 4 Daniil Medvedev vs. three-time major champion Stan Wawrinka, No. 5 Dominic Thiem vs. No. 10 Gael Monfils, and No. 7 Alexander Zverev vs. No. 17 Andrey Rublev.

Federer’s slow start against Fucsovics might have been a result of all of the energy he expended while getting past John Millman in a fifth-set super tiebreaker on Friday. That match lasted more than four hours.

“The morning after … and this morning, (I was) lying in bed for an hour,” Federer said, “and I was like, `When are we going to stand up?’ … I’m sure I’m going to feel better every day that goes by.”

Millman was two points from victory at 8-4 in the tiebreaker, before Federer reeled off the last six consecutive points.

“Guy gave me a beatdown from the baseline,” Federer said about Australia’s Millman, “so maybe it took some of my confidence away.”

Things never got quite so dire against Fucsovics, a 27-year-old from Hungary who is ranked 67th and was seeking his first major quarterfinal appearance.

After failing to accumulate a single break point in the first set, Federer won seven of Fucsovics’ service games the rest of the way.

He ended up with a 44-15 edge in winners on an evening with the temperature in the mid-60s Fahrenheit (below 20 Celsius).

“Frosty,” Federer joked. “I mean, it’s not that cold, after all. It’s fresh. It’s true, for Australia this time of year, we know it can be very different.”

He could kid around. He won. But Fucsovics did think the cool nighttime setting was a factor. His previous matches in Melbourne were during the day, when the warmer temperatures and thinner air allowed him to wallop winners with more ease.

“The conditions surprised me a little bit,” Fucsovics said, then gave Federer some credit for using that to his advantage in the last three sets.

“Roger was changing the rhythm, hitting slices, drop shots, topspins,” Fucsovics said. “He did it right. And I think I couldn’t handle this.”

Federer has yet to face a seeded player in the tournament and that won’t change against Sandgren, who is ranked 100th but eliminated No. 12 Fabio Fognini in four sets.

The lowest-ranked player that has ever defeated Federer in his 21 Australian Open appearances was No. 54 Arnaud Clement in 2000.

U.S. sweeps Uzbekistan, advances to group stage in Davis Cup

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The United States swept its way into the group stage of the Davis Cup Finals, getting the winning point in a 4-0 victory over Uzbekistan from the doubles team of Rajeev Ram and Austin Krajicek.

They beat Sergey Fomin and Sanjar Fayziev 6-2, 6-4, after Tommy Paul and Mackenzie McDonald had won singles matches in Tashkent.

Ram is No. 3 in the ATP Tour doubles rankings and partnered with Joe Salisbury to win the last two U.S. Open men’s doubles titles. But the Americans opted not to use Ram last year in the final round, when they dropped the doubles match in a 2-1 defeat against Italy in the quarterfinals.

Krajicek was making his Davis Cup debut, having reached No. 9 in the doubles rankings late last year.

“They had five great days of preparation, and as anticipated they came out really sharp and got the early break in the first set. And after that it was like two freight trains, there was no stopping them,” interim captain David Nainkin said.

Denis Kudla then beat Amir Milushev 6-4, 6-4.

The winners of the 12 qualifiers being held this weekend advance to the Davis Cup Finals group stage in September, along with reigning champion Canada, 2022 runner-up Australia and wild-card recipients Italy and Spain.

Eight teams will advance to the closing matches of the Davis Cup Finals scheduled for Nov. 21-26 in Malaga, Spain.

In other matches:

France 3, Hungary 2: On indoor hard courts in Tatabanya, Hungary, Ugo Humbert won it for the French with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Fabian Marozsan. Adrian Mannarino had forced the deciding match by beating Marton Fucsovics 7-6 (6), 6-2.

Serbia 4, Norway 0: On indoor hard courts in Oslo, the visitors, playing without top-ranked Novak Djokovic, put away the match when Filip Krajinovic and Nikola Cacic edged Viktor Durasovic and Herman Hoeyeraal 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. Hamad Medjedovic then outlasted Durasovic 6-4, 6-7, 10-4.

Sweden 3, Bosnia 1: On indoor hard courts in Stockholm, Mikael Ymer sent the hosts through by beating Damir Dzumhur 6-1, 1-6, 6-3.

Lesia Tsurenko to face Zhu Lin in Thailand Open final

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HUA HIN, Thailand — Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine reached her first final in four years after the top-seeded Bianca Andreescu retired with a shoulder injury during their semifinal match at the Thailand Open.

Tsurenko, in search of her fifth WTA title, was leading the 2019 U.S. Open champion 7-5, 4-0 when the Canadian stopped playing.

The former world No. 23 fought from 3-5 down to take the first set and reeled off eight straight games before Andreescu retired with a right shoulder problem.

“Bianca is such an amazing player. She is capable of hitting all kinds of shots and gave so much trouble today,” said the 33-year-old Tsurenko, now ranked 136th. “But I was just fighting and I told myself positive things that I can do it. Unfortunately, she had to retire.”

The Ukrainian last lifted a WTA trophy in Acapulco in 2018 and hasn’t been to a final since Brisbane in 2019.

She will face Zhu Lin of China in the final.

“She had some good wins in the Australian Open,” Tsurenko said. “She is one of the dangerous players in this tournament. She is going to give a good fight.”

In the all-Chinese semifinal earlier, Zhu benefited from a barrage of unforced errors from Wang Xinyu and prevailed 6-2, 6-4 for her first WTA final.

The world No. 54 player, who reached the last 16 at the Australian Open in January, relied on her solid baseline game to force errors.

“It was very windy, so I tried to be patient and keep my first serves in,” said the 29-year-old Zhu, who will team up with Wang in the doubles final against Hao-Ching Chan and Fang-Hsien Wu of Taiwan.