Roger Federer produced an inspired performance to beat fifth seed Kei Nishikori 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 to reach the Australian Open quarterfinals.
It was a brilliant start by Nishikori as he jumped out to a quick lead, breaking the Federer serve after five chances. A hold consolidated the break for a 2-0 lead. More trouble came for the 17th seed as he was broken again, the Japanese star now ahead 3-0, a lead that would eventually extend to 5-1.
A stunning turnaround was on the cards as Federer broke serve twice, Nishikori wobbling as he tried to close the set out. The 17-time major champion won five games in a row to take a 6-5 lead. After a Nishikori hold, the set went to a tiebreak, where Nishikori jumped out to a 3-1 lead. After a Federer rally, the 7th seed fired a backhand winner to take a 5-3 lead and he would close the tiebreaker three points later.
The second set saw few opportunities and at 3-3, Federer had three break points. After Nishikori saved the first two with errors, a double-fault and a forced error, produced by Federer’s aggressive play, brought the Swiss a 4-3 lead. He held to love to consolidate the break for a 5-3 lead. After Nishikori held to force Federer to serve out the set, he held to love, a Nishikori forehand missing the mark and the match was level at one set all.
The momentum was on Federer’s side and he seized on his opportunity in the third game. He had three break points and after fending off the first two, he hit another forehand error to concede his serve and take a 2-1 lead. After Nishikori brought up break point on Federer’s serve, the Swiss saved it with a smash to eventually go on to hold for a 3-1 lead.
The lead was extended when Nishikori pushed a volley long, Federer now up a double break 5-1. He held with great purpose to take third set 6-1 and take a two sets to one lead, Nishikori suddenly fighting to stay alive.
It almost got away from the 2014 U.S. Open finalist in the fourth game as he had to save two break points trailing 2-1. He’d regain his footing, breaking Federer with a brilliant forehand to take a 3-2 lead. Carrying an apparent injury, Nishikori held for a 4-2 lead and he would wrap the set up a bit later, holding to love for a 6-4 capture, Federer’s backhand suddenly misfiring and the match was now headed to a fifth and deciding set.
Between the end of the fourth set and beginning of the fifth, Nishikori took a medical timeout to get his legs treated, but it was of no help, Federer racing to a quick 3-0 lead on the back of strong returning and aggressive net play. He then cruised to the finish line, a 6-3 winner in the fifth set.
Rather than facing top seed Andy Murray, Federer will face German Mischa Zverev in the quarterfinals after the lefty upset the 5-time finalist 7-5, 5-7, 6-2, 6-4 to reach the last eight at a major for the first time in his career. Federer will be the huge favorite, but should not underestimate Zverev, whose serve-and-volley style has troubled all 4 of his previous opponents.