Federer, Nadal into 4th Round at Australian Open
Roger Federer made the most of his rare opportunities Friday against the fastest serve in tennis, cashing in with some classic returns in a 7-6 (6), 7-5, 6-3 win over Ivo Karlovic to reach the fourth round of the Australian Open.
The four-time Australian Open champion fended off Karlovic's set point in the tiebreaker with a return that brought the 6-foot-10 Croatian to the net, then lobbed just over him.
"I knew going in it was going to be tough. I played him 10 times, and we've played some breakers. I knew it could come down to a few here and there," said Federer, who broke Karlovic once in each of the second and third sets. He only faced two breakpoints himself, including the pivotal one in the opening tiebreaker. "I definitely got a bit fortunate and started to play better as the match went on."
For his part, Karlovic thought it was "one in a 100 I'm gonna lose that point."
"It was unlucky," Karlovic said. "I didn't really expect him to do that. I was there, I just miscalculated how much I was jumping. If I would have won that, everything would be different but that's life."
Federer is now 10-1 against Karlovic and looking increasingly confident at Melbourne Park, where he has collected four of his 16 Grand Slam titles.
He and Rafael Nadal are on the same side of the draw at a major for the first time since 2005 and could meet in the semifinals.
Second-ranked Nadal had a 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 win earlier Friday over Slovakia's Lukas Lacko to advance without dropping a set or show any signs that a freak knee injury is bothering him.
Nadal, who won the 2009 Australian title but has gone out in the quarterfinals due to injuries in the last two years, felt a crack and then sharp pain in his right knee while sitting in a chair at his hotel on the weekend and was concerned that he might not be able to play in his opening match. Medical tests didn't show any serious damage, and he has had the knee heavily taped in his three matches since.
"The knee is fine. That's important thing," the 10-time major winner said. "The match was a really complete match, a really solid one.
"Very happy about my game. Being in fourth round without losing a set, it's fantastic news."
Nadal will next meet fellow Spaniard Feliciano Lopez, who beat No. 16 John Isner 6-3, 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-7 (0), 6-1 to put the last U.S. man out of the draw.
No. 7 Tomas Berdych beat No. 30 Kevin Anderson of South Africa 7-6 (5), 7-6 (1), 6-1 and will next play No. 10 Nicolas Almagro of Spain, who beat 21st-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland 7-6 (2), 6-2, 6-4.
Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber defeated Alejandro Falla of Colombia 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (3) in another third-round match.
Federer will play the winner of the match between Australian teenager Bernard Tomic, a Wimbledon quarterfinalist last year, and No. 13 Alex Dolgopolov. Both have a vastly different style to Karlovic, who broke Andy Roddick's record for the fastest serve ever in tennis by hitting one at 156 mph in a Davis Cup match last year.
"It's just because he's so tall and makes it unusual to return against," Federer said of the serve. "I've been around the block, faced some good ones."
Yet it unraveled twice when Karlovic needed it, in the tiebreaker and in the 12th game of the second set.
Karlovic was a point from forcing a second-set tiebreaker but Federer stepped it up, earning two set points with some trademark backhands and converting on the second when the tall Croatian netted a volley.
Roddick is already out of the tournament, retiring during his second-round match against Australian veteran Lleyton Hewitt late Thursday.
He needed a medical timeout after injuring his right hamstring in the second set and played 16 more games before finally retiring when Hewitt gained a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 lead.
"It's a miserable, terrible thing being out there compromised like that," said Roddick, who is hoping to return within three weeks.
Hewitt, who turns 31 next month, goes to the third round against Milos Raonic, the big-serving, 21-year-old Canadian. If Hewitt eliminates an opponent who has dropped only two service games this year, he could face defending champion Novak Djokovic in the fourth round.