ROGER Federer was a strictly nocturnal beast throughout the first week of the Australian Open but proved just as effective with the sun on his back as he sauntered into the quarterfinals on Monday for the 14th time.
The defending champion did not require his dazzling best against 80thranked Hungarian Marton Fucsovics in his first match scheduled during the day session but still emerged a comfortable 6-4 7-6(3) 6-2 winner.
After his earlier than usual finish, the 36-year-old world No 2 said he might even be able to make the most of a night off and take his wife Mirka out for dinner.
“I was considering sunglasses and a towel for the beach but, no, the only thing is the racket strings are a bit tighter … but it’s not crazy hot today,”
Federer told former champion Jim Courier in a knockabout post-match chat on the court. “It’s a different rhythm playing in the day and not going to bed at 3 am. We might go out for dinner tonight but Mirka has left already – she must have other plans!”
Federer’s light mood matched the sunny conditions and he was even reduced to giggles during one point late in the second set when he mis-hit a forehand high into the air, then defended three consecutive Fucsovics smashes to win a bizarre rally.
“This one was the biggest joke of a point maybe I have ever played,” he said.
“Thankfully it didn’t decide the outcome of that second set. That would have been too much of a joke, to be honest.” Federer is yet to drop a set and did not even face a break point against the 25-year-old Fucsovics, who arrived in Melbourne without a Grand Slam main draw victory to his name.
Yet his unheralded opponent, bidding to become only the third Hungarian man to reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal in the professional era, offered an all-round display that belied his record, even if it did not surprise Federer.
“I practised with him for a few days in a row in Switzerland. That helped, you know, knowing his strength and weaknesses a little bit,” he said.
“He was not completely the unknown opponent that maybe people thought he was. He hung with me for a long time. So it was a good match.”
Federer was in cruise control in the first set but struck decisively when Fucsovics served at 4-5, squeezing the throttle enough to earn a set point converted with a smash.
Fucsovics played his part in entertaining rallies to extend the 19-times Grand Slam champion to a tie-break.
Federer rifled a running forehand pass to earn three set points and again finished the set at the net, with a smash.
The third set was all over in 31 minutes as Federer raced into the 52nd Grand Slam quarterfinal of his career, booking a last eight encounter against 19th seeded Czech Tomas Berdych.