ROGER Federer said he was energised by facing younger players after handing Milos Raonic a masterclass in clinical tennis at the Australian Open yesterday to reach a 35th straight grand slam quarter-final.
Federer defused the 22-year-old Canadian’s serve and held his own comfortably before shifting up the gears when necessary to race to a 6-4, 7-6, 6-2 victory.
Raonic was not at his best, having had a pain-killing injection for inflamed joints in his foot prior to the match, but was left demoralised as Federer cracked 34 winners and pounced upon anything short.
After world No 1 Novak Djokovic was taken to the brink of defeat in a five-hour thriller against Federer’s fellow Swiss Stan Wawrinka on Sunday, there was much anticipation that the second seed could face a similar challenge. Big-serving Raonic had taken a set off Federer in all three of their previous meetings but even that never looked likely in their fourth-round clash on a cool Rod Laver Arena.
Federer wrapped up the first set when Raonic netted a volley, the second with a brilliant forehand down the line to take the tiebreak 7-4, and the third with another big forehand winner. “I felt good out there,” the 31-year-old said. “I was moving well, had good anticipation and reaction today, which was key obviously on the return. In the third set, I started to feel extremely good on the return.”
The 17-times grand slam champion, who is chasing a fifth title at Melbourne Park, will meet seventh seeded Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the last eight. Tsonga beat compatriot and ninth seed Richard Gasquet in four sets.
The only man in the tournament who has yet to lose a service game, Federer gave up only five points on his first serve in the match against Raonic. “Tonight was a very solid night, so I’m very happy,” he said. “If I can maintain such a level of play, I give myself a chance of going deep in this tournament.”
Raonic was left ruing his foot injury, which started troubling him on Sunday and robbed him of practice time. “A few times it would hurt on some awkward steps,” said Raonic, who was not sure whether he would play until 45 minutes before the match. “It was more how much it weighs on you mentally throughout the day.”
Despite the lesson he handed out to Australian Bernard Tomic in the third round and Raonic yesterday, Federer said he no longer felt he had to make a statement when he was playing talented youngsters. “Maybe five years ago, today I’m in a different place. I just try to go out there and play my best, regardless if they’re young or not,” he said.
“But I get a lift in terms of energy playing against those kind of guys. But I don’t try to hit harder or intimidate them because they’ve seen the big serves and they’ve seen the great movement around. They know what it’s all about.”
Federer has accumulated so many records in his glittering career that extending his mark for most successive last eight appearances at a grand slam was never going to excite him too much. “I’m happy to have another one, but does it drive me? I don’t know, I’m not sure. It’s a nice record to have.”