On Friday night, Roger Federer and John Millman will step on the Rod Laver Arena in the Australian Open third-round clash. The six-time champion has played on a very high level against Steve Johnson and Filip Krajinovic, spending less than three hours on the court and looking sharp and determined to repeat what he did in Melbourne twice in the previous three years.
Nonetheless, Federer will probably have to work harder against the home star in the next encounter, with Millman beating Ugo Humbert and Hubert Hurkacz to advance into the third round for the first time since 2016. John has won six out of seven matches so far in 2020, delivering two wins for Australia at the ATP Cup and reaching the quarter-final in Auckland.
The Aussie will have to provide his best tennis to stand a chance against such a strong and experienced rival, looking back at the US Open 2018 when he toppled Roger on the big scene and grabbed his first top-10 triumph in such a great style.
A year and a half ago, Millman reached the first Major quarter-final with a thrilling 3-6, 7-5, 7-6, 7-6 victory over the five-time US Open champion Roger Federer in three hours and 34 minutes! It was the first top-10 win for the 29-year-old Aussie after ten defeats, becoming the first player ranked outside the top-50 who had managed to down Federer in New York, with the Swiss winning the previous 40 matches against the rivals from that rank group!
Roger never liked the conditions at the US Open two years ago, struggling like almost never before on a humid New York night after hitting ten double faults and failing to make an impression at the net where he usually rules.
Nonetheless, the grand champion gave his best despite being far from his normal level, hitting 65 winners but also 76 unforced errors, staying in touch with the rival who controlled his shots in a more efficient way to finish on 47 winners and 28 mistakes.
One of the main problems for Roger was the first serve percentage that dropped to 31% in the second set, failing to make an impression on the second serve but creating and converting as many break chances as John did, with three breaks from 11 chances on each side!
In the end, the Aussie came from a 5-3 down to steal the second set, fending off two set points for Roger in game ten and another one at 5-6 in the third set tie break to forge a massive lead ahead of the rest of the encounter.
Roger was 4-2 up in the fourth set as well but that wasn't enough to force a decider, with Millman overcoming the deficit to take the tie break 7-4 and earn a career-best win and the place in the last eight where he faced Novak Djokovic.
Roger served at only 45% in the opening set, repelling a break point already in the first game before breaking Millman at love in game two after forcing an error from the Aussie. Serving for the set at 5-3, Federer held after a deuce with a volley winner at the net to wrap up the first part of the match in 33 minutes, looking for more of the same in the sets to come.
In one of the most grueling service games for Roger in the last couple of years, the Swiss erased no less than seven break points in the second game of the second set and forced a backhand error from John to move 3-2 ahead.
Serving for the set in game ten, Federer wasted two set points in what was the pivotal moment of the entire clash, allowing Millman to break back after a costly double fault that would cost him dearly. The momentum was now on the side of the Aussie who grabbed another break in game 12 from 40-15 down after a backhand error from Roger, taking four straight games to level the overall score at 1-1.
From 31% of the first serve in, Roger went to 62% in set number three and still couldn't find the way to defend his second serve, making too many errors and still having a chance to win it, just like the previous one.
John saved a break chance in the opening game of the set and nothing could separate them before the tie break where Roger led 3-1 and 6-5. John defended a set point with a service winner, moving 8-7 ahead with a forehand winner that gave him a set point and converting it with another big forehand to steal another set and move 2-1 in front.
Federer clearly struggled to find his range, although he kept fighting, creating a 4-2 gap in the fourth set when Millman netting a forehand and giving his fans something to cheer about as he looked good to force a deciding set.
The Swiss had two game points that could have sent him 5-2 up but it wasn't to be for him after a routine smash that he placed into the net. John broke back after a forehand error from Federer and they both served well in the remaining five games to set up a tie break, a must-win one for Roger.
This time there was no drama around, with Millman winning all five points on serve and scoring mini-breaks in the fourth and fifth points after two double faults from a former champion. Serving for the win at 6-3, Millman crossed the finish line when Roger sprayed a forehand error, celebrating his most significant victory ever and preparing himself for another great clash against Novak Djokovic.