Wednesday, June 29, 2016

WIMBLEDON: Grass-court debutante Maria Sakkari looking forward to Venus Williams challenge

Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

Five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams will on Thursday (match pushed from Wednesday due to the rain) take on an opponent who had never played on grass prior to last week in qualifying.

Greek player Maria Sakkari is a self-proclaimed clay specialist and the 20-year-old had her very first hit on grass last week ahead of the Wimbledon qualifying rounds in Roehampton.

She then won all three of her qualies before posting a first round victory in the main draw over Zheng Saisai on Monday, booking a dream second round with Williams.

Her victory over Zheng has provisionally place her in the top-100 for the first time (official rankings come out the Monday after Wimbledon) and she is raring to go higher.

Contesting just her third career grand slam, Sakkari has matched her best performance by reaching the last 64 (she made the second round in Australia in January before losing in three sets to Carla Suarez Navarro).

“It’s a really good first step for every player to make the top-100, not that this is my goal of course, but it’s a really good first step and it feels good because I’ll have the chance to play in the main draw in many tournaments and that’s the important thing,” Sakkari told me.

Sakkari’s mother is Angeliki Kanellopoulo, a former WTA top-50 player, and is with her here at Wimbledon to witness her special run.

For someone who has played the majority of her tournaments on clay, Sakkari has certainly exceeded everyone’s expectations with her four wins on grass this fortnight.

“Clay, clay, clay, clay, right?” she says with a laugh, referring to her tournament history.

“I came here without having any expectations to play good or to feel good but then I had two days of practice on grass and I started playing qualies. I won one match after the other and here I am.

“I was feeling good, so that’s the important thing. I feel good on grass.

“I tried to adapt as fast as I could and I think that’s what helped me to make it.”

There is a gulf in experience between Sakkari and the 36-year-old Williams, who is making her 19th appearance at Wimbledon and her 71st grand slam main draw.

Sakkari is relishing the challenge though.

“I’m excited, it’s going to be a really nice match. I respect her and I respect what she has done all these years,” says Sakkari.

“I watched so many matches of her and her sister (Serena) and I’m looking forward to playing her here.”

Sakkari was born in Athens and moved to Barcelona three years ago to train there.

“It was tough because I have all my best friends in Greece and my family but I knew that I have to make that step to make my career better,” she says.
With barely any Greek players in action on tour, the reaction to Sakkari’s opening round victory has been big back home.

“My phone hasn’t stopped. It’s really nice to receive all that kind of love from people. I know that for the moment it’s just me from Greece and a few more players like Stefanos Tsitsipas, who is the No1 junior in the world. It’s important for them to have names on the tour and it makes me feel good, it’s nice to have that,” she says.

Williams is seeded No8 at Wimbledon and she survived a tough encounter with Donna Vekic in the first round.

At 36, she has been on tour for over two decades (she turned pro in 1994) and she is showing no signs of stopping anytime soon. “I don't think anyone feels older. You have this infinity inside of you that feels like you could go forever,” said a philosophical Venus on Monday.

“That's how I feel on the court. As long as I'm halfway decent, can get my racquet on the ball, I think I can make something happen. So far so good.”

Venus played her first Wimbledon main draw in 1997, losing in three sets to Magdalena Grzybowska, but reached the quarter-finals the following two years before winning her first of five titles here in 2000.

“I do remember my first year. It wasn't very fantastic. I was just so nervous. It was tough to play your first time. But thankfully since then, I was able to handle my nerves a little better. You know, there's nothing like the first time,” said Venus.

Sakkari will certainly never forget hers.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

AUSTRALIAN OPEN: Murray survives Raonic to set-up final rematch with Djokovic


The Murray clan have got a lot to be proud of as both Andy and Jamie have become the first brothers in the Open Era to reach the finals in men’s singles and doubles at a grand slam.

Andy Murray on Friday pulled off a tough escape against Milos Raonic to beat the Canadian No13 seed 4-6, 7-5, 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-2 in a four-hour battle and reach his fifth Australian Open final, where he takes on his long-time nemesis Novak Djokovic.

The world No2 joins his brother Jamie as a finalist in Melbourne with the latter set to play his third consecutive grand slam doubles final when he takes to the court alongside his partner Bruno Soares on Saturday against Daniel Nestor and Radek Stepanek.

“For it to be the first time to happen is incredible really. I never would have expected that,” Andy told reporters on Friday.

“(This is) Obviously something that's going to be extremely rare. You're not going to see it very often. We should enjoy it and be proud of it because it's a tough thing to do.”

Looking to reach a ninth grand slam final, Andy struggled to get a read on the massive Raonic serve early on as the Canadian, playing just his second major semi-final, came out blazing.

The world No14 made a nerveless start breaking the Murray serve at love. Raonic saved all three break points to consolidate and protected the advantage he had throughout the set.

The 25-year-old got his first two set points with a 230km/hr service winner and took the set on his second chance, challenging a serve that was mistakenly called out. Murray got a break point in the second game of the second set but a Raonic serve-forehand one-two punch saw the No13 seed get out of trouble.

In the third game, Raonic asked umpire Jake Garner which mark was from Murray’s serve before challenging, and winning the challenge. Murray complained to Garner saying: “You said to challenge in a clear and timely manner. In my opinion, that’s not a clear and timely manner.”

After holding for a 2-1 lead, Murray told Garner in the changeover: “I hope you’re consistent with that for the rest of the match.”

Raonic faced a break/set point, serving at 5-6, and he netted a volley to hand over the set. The third set was a tight affair and remained on serve throughout. Raonic got a break point in the 11th game but Murray survived it. The set went to a tiebreak in which Raonic opened a 5-2 gap and sealed it with an ace.

Three games into the fourth set, Raonic needed an off-court medical timeout to treat an adductor injury. The 1.96m Canadian was never the same again, failing to push off his leg on serve and struggling to move well.

Murray held for 2-2 upon resumption of play before Raonic, who had been ice-cold thus far, got testy with Garner, demanding the umpire overrule the poor line calls, telling him: “I have to play him, not you. Do your freaking job.”

Two games later, Murray broke Raonic at love for a 4-3 lead. Raonic got a break point in the following game but Murray covered the net well to save it and gave about 10 fist pumps in a row to celebrate. Raonic wasted two break points as Murray served for the set at 5-4 but the Scot hung on and took the set on his second chance with a service winner to force a fifth.
Keeping his cool up to that point, Raonic double-faulted to get broken in the opening game of the decider and smashed his racquet in frustration to the sound of echoing boos from the stands. Murray broke again and it wasn’t long before he sealed the win on his first opportunity with an inside out forehand winner.

Amelie Mauresmo, Murray’s coach, said she was amazed at her charge’s fighting spirit.

“He was incredible. He was in a bit of trouble out there and Milos definitely improved a lot and his serve was really hard, I thought Andy, at the beginning, had a lot of trouble reading it, and then as the match went on, he was reading it better and better so that was really a big satisfaction,” said the Frenchwoman, who won the Australian Open title herself 10 years ago.

“He never gives up, that’s basically what happened tonight. And in the fifth set he was able to physically and mentally go over Milos, but yeah, a tough one tonight.”

Murray said he wasn’t surprised by Raonic’s high-quality display but admits he suffered a slow start due to the adjustments he had to make between warming up indoors and ending up playing with the roof open.
It hurts light hell now at this moment. The heartbreak and the disappoint. Regardless, I will not let this keep me down. That is not how I was raised and that is not the kind of person that I am. I thrive of challenges and of difficult moments that on the other side make me better and make me stronger. It's infuriating for the tournament to end on this note and to have to face this knot in my stomach. But it's not the end. Not by any means. I am better than that and I will overcome the challenges my body presents to me, I work far to damn hard and commit every waking moment to tennis, my ambitions and my goals, to not do that. I will grow from this and I will learn. I will give myself this opportunity again and I will move on in a better light. It may not be today or tomorrow but I am gonna do everything to make sure it's someday! At the end of the day, it has been a very special January. I have showed great amounts of improvement and development in my tennis. I have played great and I have done a whole lot of winning. That feels great and I will keep pushing that forward. A huge thank you to the fans and supporters who show their love and passion, on court, through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and any other way possible. You guys are great to me and I am forever grateful. I will much more to cheer for. With much love! Milos
A photo posted by Milos Raonic (@mraonic) on
A heartbroken Raonic spoke to reporters after the match revealing he felt his adductor problem midway through the third set.

“Yeah, it's unfortunate. Probably the most heartbroken I felt on court, but that's what it is,” said Raonic, who struck 78 unforced errors against 72 winners yesterday.

Asked if he felt he still had a chance to fight through the pain, Raonic added: “I think maybe that's why I sort of lashed out after I did at the start of the fifth set.

“I guess that was sort of just the whole frustration of everything sort of getting out. I don't think that's like myself to do, but sometimes it's a little bit too much to keep in.”

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

AUSTRALIAN OPEN: No "coffee bar" for Zhang Shuai just yet as she makes the quarter-finals, Keys crashes out injured


Zhang Shuai’s miracle run at the Australian Open continued on Monday night with yet another emotional victory for the Chinese world No133, but it also meant heartbreak for 2015 semi-finalist Madison Keys who left the court injured and in tears.

The 27-year-old, who came to Melbourne with zero wins in 14 grand slam appearances and but has now made her way into the quarter-finals, could barely contain her own emotions as she held her nerve to beat the No15 seed 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 while watching Keys suffer from an adductor injury.

Zhang considered retirement just three months ago and brought her parents to Australia thinking it may be their last chance to see her compete. She says she would have liked to open her own “coffee bar” had she left the sport. We're all invited when she does open it.

But since she got to Melbourne, she has won seven matches – three in qualifying and four in the main draw – and now finds herself one of the last eight remaining players in the draw.

Her win over Keys on Monday makes her the first qualifier to reach the quarter-finals in Melbourne since Mexico’s Angelica Gavaldon in 1990 and she now has a chance to go further should she beat Johanna Konta in the next round.

“I’m very exciting. Very happy, yeah. I don't want to stop. I want more step,” said Zhang, who looked too exhausted to form complete sentences in the press conference.

“It's so tough to play against someone injury because, yeah, when I'm saw her like feel more pain. You know, so tough. Maybe two point you feeling like cannot play, and then next three balls, pong, pong, pong, make two ace, one winner.

“So, so tough. You don't know what's happen. And also last year this happened many times. I'm almost winning the match. I lost. I lost the concentrate. But this time I think I try to concentrate. So I'm happy I win the match, yeah.”
Keys, who was barely able to move after the match and couldn’t make her way to the interview room, says she felt like she tore her adductor towards the end of the first set but wanted to keep on fighting.

“You don’t want to… one I hate retiring, and two, you don’t want to do that to someone who is trying to get into the quarter-finals,” said a tearful Keys, talking to reporters in the media restaurant.

“I thought maybe I could figure it out and somehow get through then have a day off and try but obviously not going to happen.” Asked how disappointed she was, Keys said: “I don’t think there’s a word for it.”

As a qualifier, Zhang has already had an incredibly long two weeks in Melbourne and she convinced herself that her fourth round on Monday was a final to find some strength.

“Before today I'm thinking ‘okay, today is the final’. When somebody already wins six matches at a grand slam, already it’s the final, right?” she said.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN: Milos Raonic finally knows how good he is, says coach Carlos Moya


Milos Raonic is finally aware of how good he really is… at least that’s what his new coach Carlos Moya believes after he watched his charge upset No4 seed Stan Wawrinka in five sets to reach the Australian Open quarter-finals on Monday.

Entering his fourth round carrying a 0-4 head-to-head against Wawrinka, Raonic scored his first win over the Swiss in dramatic fashion, venturing up to the net an incredible 83 times en route to a 6-4, 6-3, 5-7, 4-6, 6-3 success.

History was made in the process as Raonic, the No13 seed, became the first Canadian ever to reach four grand slam quarter-finals.

The 1.96m ace machine has now won his last eight consecutive matches, having captured the title in Brisbane to kick off his season, and will face Gael Monfils for a place in the semi-finals.

Raonic has looked like a man on a mission from the start of the year and he handed Wawrinka a loss on January 1 in Abu Dhabi, albeit in exhibition play.

After struggling for most of 2015 with injuries, he finally feels fit and has this aura of confidence around him that was never as evident before.

He brought in Moya to replace Ivan Ljubicic, who joined Roger Federer’s coaching staff, and their first tournament together is shaping up to be a big hit.

After beating Federer in the Brisbane final, Raonic has now notched two top-four victories barely four weeks into the new year.

“For sure he’s a more mature player right now. He’s injury-free which is very good... And now he sort of put things together and he’s playing his best tennis,” Moya said after Raonic’s win.

“I think also mentally he stepped up. He probably wasn’t aware of how good he was and now he starts to realise that he has all the weapons it takes to be a champion and it’s about using them properly.”

Against Wawrinka yesterday, Raonic was the aggressor while his opponent, struggling with a cold since the start of the tournament, fought hard to try and shift the momentum by the third set.

But after Wawrinka levelled the match for two-sets-all, Raonic did not panic - in fact he says he was calm, and his tennis showed it as he didn’t face a single break point in the fifth.

Serving and volleying like it’s 1985, Raonic was successful 54/83 times at the net and he finished the match with a stunning 82 winners against 53 unforced errors.

“I felt very clear in what I needed to do and I believed that I could do it. I think that gave me some kind of calm and some kind of peace inside,” said Raonic of how he felt at the start of the fifth. “There was a very strong belief that the opportunities I was creating, I would be able to make the most of it...

“Last nine months for me, everything was a question. Some days I was hiding the disappointments I was having because of injuries, some days I was not.

“But I think the more as I mature, the more I understand my game, what I need to do, the more I can keep a quiet head on my shoulders.”

Raonic’s all-out aggressive game has been in the making for quite some time. The 25-year-old, the youngest of the eight quarter-finalists, says the time he spent away from the game while injured allowed him to think of ways he can improve.

“When I was sort of sitting there maybe a little bit annoyed with the physical situation I was in, I was asking myself all the time ‘what can I do to get better?’ It was something definitely I felt was necessary for me,” he explains.

Moya says his goal since he started working with Raonic was to convince him what his weapons were and organising the way to use them. He has encouraged him to continue with his attacking game but says it’s important to mix things up.

“He’s a big guy, he has a huge forehand and serve. Here the courts are fast. It’s not easy to pass a guy like him. He has a good volley, good technique. It’s good to mix it up,” said the Spanish coach and ex-world No1.

“To me, sometimes today he served and volleyed in the fourth set every point. So Wawrinka kind of expected him to come to the net. We talked about that, to be more unpredictable.”

On his part, Wawrinka said he was surprised he could take the match to five sets, and said his illness had taken its toll on him.

“I think I honestly come from too far. I've been sick since 10 days now. Still trying to get into the second week. Couldn't really be at my top. When you play a top guy like Milos, it's difficult. You need to be 100 per cent to have a chance to beat him,” said the world No4.

“Today he pushed from the beginning. He was there. That's it. He was better.”

Raonic’s next opponent seems like the polar opposite of the Canadian. Monfils is flamboyant and entertaining; Raonic seems serious and his game is comparatively monotonous.

“I guess the way I describe myself is trying to be efficient,” says Raonic on why he shows little emotion on the court.

“I know from when I was a junior I learned in many tough lessons that sort of when I get too emotional for the positive I can start going to a negative too fast. That cost me too many matches.”

Moya says it’s important to quickly put the Wawrinka win behind them to focus on the next challenge.

“It’s going to be important not to think too much about this match that he just won. It’s a huge win to be honest but still he’s halfway to his biggest goal, which is to win the slam so he has to be calm and knowing that his next match is going to be very difficult as well and we have to help him on that,” said Moya.

Monday, January 25, 2016

AUSTRALIAN OPEN: Djokovic hits 100 unforced errors en route to five-set win over Gilles Simon


At Melbourne Cricket Ground, located just a few hundred metres away from Rod Laver Arena, a century is a good thing, but for Novak Djokovic, the century of unforced errors he struck in his five-set victory over Gilles Simon on Sunday were problematic.

The world No1 described his four-hour 32-minute last-16 battle against Simon as a “match to forget” but that 6-3, 6-7 (1), 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 win also ushered Djokovic into his 27th straight grand slam quarter-final, to tie Jimmy Connors in second place for the most consecutive major last-eight appearances.

Simon, the world No15, had told French media before the match that he had the entire locker room behind him as most of the players were tired of seeing Djokovic win all the time.

“I don't know which locker room he's talking about. Women's locker room I'm pretty popular, I know that,” quipped Djokovic after the clash.

The humour the top seed showed in his post-match press conference was a stark contrast to the fits of rage he experienced on the court as he struck one error after the other frustrated by Simon’s counter-punching.

Each rally felt like it was a match within itself as the ball went back on forth over 30 times per point and each set felt like it deserved a trophy ceremony at the end of it.

“I know a lot of players wanted me to win this match. A lot of players will feel better with Novak out of the draw. That's normal because he's the best player in the world,” explained Simon, who is now 1-10 head-to-head against Djokovic.

“I know exactly what I was doing, but I won't say it. I had a plan. I know him well. We all know which player he is and how hard it is to find any solution against him, to somehow stop the fight and feel better on the court. I think I worked on it good today. He made 100 unforced errors. That's a good number for me, not for him. But unfortunately was not enough.”
The opening set was a drawn out tug of war that gave a clear idea of what the rest of the showdown was going to look like. Djokovic broke at love for 3-1 but Simon broke right back and drew level for 3-all.

The Serb then needed an 11-minute game that saw him save four break points and go through seven deuces before he held serve, sarcastically raising his arms in victory to celebrate.

Djokovic then broke in the following game for a 5-3 lead. Serving for the set, the top seed had to save two break points before he finally sealed it on his fourth opportunity.

Simon was unfazed and snatched the second-set tiebreak 7-1, ending Djokovic’s streak of 26 consecutive sets won, dating back to the ATP Finals in November.

Djokovic led 3-0 in the third but Simon clawed his way back for 3-all. The Frenchman was broken though in game 10 as Djokovic edged ahead.

The world No1 needed another marathon eight-minute game to hold in the opening game of the fourth and was broken in the ninth game to give Simon a 5-4 advantage which was enough for him take the set and force a decider.

Djokovic raced to a 5-1 lead in the fifth but once again, a stubborn Simon pegged him back, and saved two match points to hold for 3-5 – a game which witnessed the Serb’s 100th unforced error.

Serving for the match for a second time, Djokovic aced to get triple match point and he sealed the encounter with backhand winner. He finished the clash a bizarre 6/25 on break point conversions.
In his on-court chat with Jim Courier, someone from the crowd yelled “no more drop shots” at Djokovic, who had done terribly on most of his drop shot attempts throughout the match.

“I hate to say it but you’re absolutely right,” responded Djokovic to the fan in the stands.

The 28-year-old later described his horror show with the drop shots as a “brain freeze”, admitting he was trying to shorten the rallies with Simon forcing him to hit an extra shot, but his strategy wasn’t working.

Djokovic, who faces No7 seed Kei Nishikori in the quarter-finals on Tuesday, says he’s not worried about playing as poorly in his next match.

“Actually, it gives me great joy to know that I can't get worse than that, than what I played today,” Djokovic said with a smile. “It doesn't concern me for the next one.

“It's not a very pleasant feeling when you're not playing well. But certainly it's a good feeling when you win not playing well.”

Roger Federer, who had a post-midnight finish in beating David Goffin 6-2, 6-1, 6-4, said enough credit was not being given to Simon in how the Frenchman forced Djokovic to play badly.

“I just feel people talking like Novak had a horrible day. Of course he can play better, but on the other side, you have somebody (Simon) who has the fastest legs and he knows exactly what he's doing out there, and it worked almost to the very end. So it was very close for Novak, and he knows that,” said Federer, who faces sixth-seeded Tomas Berdych in the quarters on Tuesday.

Simon, who has had wins over Federer, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal, says his strength is that he doesn’t fear the top players.

“Like I just see them as humans and tennis players. They are fantastic. They can play an amazing tennis, but they still have some weaknesses on the court,” said the 31-year-old.

He says the scary part about Djokovic though is that he continues to get better.

“He's improving year after year. That's terrible to say because he's already No1. He's improving, so I try to improve also,” added Simon.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

AUSTRALIAN OPEN: Wawrinka's voice, Tomic hits out at Federer, Raonic's heartfelt dedication


Stan Wawrinka joked that he preferred being sick and not having a voice to avoid “talking s***” after the No4 seed overcame Lukas Rosol to reach the Australian Open fourth round on Saturday.

Suffering from a cold for the past week, Wawrinka showed little signs of struggle as he beat the powerful Czech 6-2, 6-3, 7-6(3), slamming down 18 aces in the process, to set up a last 16 showdown with No13 seed Milos Raonic.

Wawrinka’s voice sounded hoarse in his on-court interview with Jim Courier which prompted the American to ask him if he was ill. “Last few days I couldn’t really talk, but I’ve been okay, maybe too many cigars,” joked the 2014 champion.

“I have a bit of a cold, but as long as I feel well on the court, I don’t really need my voice. If I can talk, I talk too much s***, so it’s better.”

Federer said in Brisbane: “He's (Tomic) been good, but then top 10 is another story. The year is not just one month long or one week long. It's 52 weeks. It's every day.

“That he's been struggling to show, to be quite honest. Many seasons now in a row we have seen or heard that top 10 is the goal, and he's missed out on it by a long shot. I think before speaking so highly, maybe it's good to take it to the next level, whatever that is. We shall see.”

Tomic, who booked a fourth round meeting with Andy Murray with a 6-4, 7-6(4), 6-2 over John Millman, did not appreciate the Swiss’ comments.

He said on Saturday: “Well, he has his predictions. I think he's also far away from Djokovic as well if he wants to say that. If he believes I'm very far away from the top 10, I also believe my prediction that he's nowhere near Novak's tennis right now. “It also motivates me. I'm working for that. When I'm playing well, I'm a top-eight player in the world. My ranking has to get there.”

Earlier in the day, French No23 seed Gael Monfils recorded his 350th tour-level victory with a hard-fought 7-5, 6-3, 6-2 triumph over his 35-year-old compatriot Stephane Robert.

Meanwhile, Raonic gave an emotional on-court dedication to the victims of the school shooting in Saskatchewan in Canada after his 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 over Sydney champion Viktor Troicki.

“Today, before I stepped out on court it was a difficult day back home,” Raonic told the crowd at Margaret Court Arena.

“Unfortunately in Saskatchewan, in a very small community, there was a shooting at a high school so I want to take a moment to give thoughts to that community, the family, the students and the school affected. We wish you all the best. Today’s victory was for that community and a quick recovery. All of Canada and I’m sure the world is behind you.”

Saturday, January 23, 2016

AUSTRALIAN OPEN: Federer passes Dimitrov test to make fourth round in Melbourne

Best of frenemies: Federer and Dimitrov
 
Somewhere in a small warm-up room in the winding corridors of Melbourne Park, Roger Federer and Grigor Dimitrov sat side by side watching Lauren Davis force a deciding third set against Maria Sharapova.

Federer gave out a loud ‘woah, are you kidding me?’ reacting to a point and jumped out of his seat when a long rally was over.

“That would’ve been the shot of the tournament,” the Swiss legend told Dimitrov and the rest of the group who were sat with them. The pair continued to watch, having a laugh, kicking about a tennis ball, knowing that a short while later, they would step on Rod Laver Arena and become adversaries. Not a scene you’d typically expect from fierce competitors at the top level of the game.


Soon after, Federer walked off the court a 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 third round winner over Dimitrov to improve his record against the Bulgarian to a clean 5-0, and become the first man in history to win 300 grand slam matches in the process.

“Because we know each other quite well, yeah, we were pretty chilled going into the match,” the third-seeded Federer explained of the amusing scene ahead of their match.

“We've both been well-prepared. Sometimes you don't look much at the other guy. But with Grigor it's different, like with other guys on tour. There's many guys I would speak to before a match. That was the situation today.

“But I'm happy it still exists. We're not that far down the road where it's so professional where you can't even look at the guy before you walk on court. We're not there yet and I hope we'll never get there.”

Federer was competing in the Australian Open third round for a 17th consecutive year and his four-set win over Dimitrov made him the oldest man to reach the last 16 in Melbourne since Andre Agassi reached the quarter-finals in 2005.

On a rainy day Down Under, the roof had been closed for the first two matches on centre court but when the showers halted briefly, organisers opened the roof for the Federer-Dimitrov clash.

It proved an unwise decision as the rain started again just one game into the match, which had to be stopped until the court was dried and the roof was closed once again.

The interruption did not appear to faze Federer though, who held serve quickly upon resumption and got his first break point the following game. Dimitrov saved it but was broken in game seven to give Federer a 4-3 lead. It was all the Swiss needed to take the opening set, which he sealed with an ace.

Dimitrov, the No27 seed, struck back to take the second set and draw level but he dropped the third and asked for the trainer to get some treatment for a sore right elbow.

Federer slammed a signature backhand down the line winner to break for a 3-2 lead in the fourth set and he secured the win with a serve-forehand one-two punch to set up a fourth round with Belgian No15 seed David Goffin.

On getting his 300th match win at a major, Federer said: “It's very exciting. Like when I reached 1,000 (victories) last year, it was a big deal for me. Not something I ever aimed for or looked for, but when it happens, it's very special. You look deeper into it, I guess, where it's all happened and how. Yeah, so it's very nice. I'm very happy.”

Dimitrov, who lost to Federer in the quarter-finals in Brisbane earlier this month before reaching the final in Sydney the following week, has played 10 matches in the last 19 days and he admits he may have felt the effects of playing two lead-up tournaments to the Australian Open.

But the former top-tenner, who is looking to find his way back up the rankings, says he can only take positives from his Australian swing.

“I don't regret any decisions I've taken so far. Seems to pay off in a way, the work. I wanted to play a lot of matches. I did play a lot of matches. Lost to quality players, twice to Roger, once to (Viktor) Troicki. That's how it is,” said Dimitrov.

Over on Margaret Court Arena, Novak Djokovic took his winning streak against Italians to 33 consecutive victories after he dismissed No28 seed Andreas Seppi 6-1, 7-5, 7-6(6) yesterday to book a fourth round meeting with France’s No14 seed Gilles Simon.

Djokovic, seeking a sixth title in Melbourne, admits he has set the bar so high for himself that expectations of him have risen to incredible heights.

“It's almost like, you know, after the season that I've had, 2015, anything aside from a title or a final is not a success,” confessed the world No1.