Tennis: Ailing Federer prevails

Swiss legend Roger Federer catching his breath after a point against Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov. The defending champion, who is still not 100 per cent after a recent illness, faces Dominic Thiem in the semi-finals.
Swiss legend Roger Federer catching his breath after a point against Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov. The defending champion, who is still not 100 per cent after a recent illness, faces Dominic Thiem in the semi-finals. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Brisbane holder holds off Dimitrov, Djokovic says calendar-year Grand Slam is possible

BRISBANE • Roger Federer overcame the effects of a recent illness and a tenacious Grigor Dimitrov to book a place in the semi-finals of the Brisbane International yesterday.

The Swiss tennis legend, the defending champion, edged out Dimitrov 6-4, 6-7 (4-7), 6-4 in his fourth straight win over the Bulgarian.

After racing through the first set with a display of almost perfect tennis, Federer, who has been battling illness this week, seemed to tire in the second as Dimitrov grew in confidence.

But the 17-time Grand Slam champion dug deep in the third, breaking Dimitrov in the fifth game and holding on to win in 2hr 7min.

The 34-year-old conceded that he was not 100 per cent during the match. "It was tough in a way. The body is not quite ready, you know, so it's good to get through it without any issues," he said. "But, yeah, physically it was difficult."

Federer will take on Austrian Dominic Thiem in today's semi-finals, after the eighth seed stunned former US Open champion Marin Cilic 2-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-4.

Earlier, Bernard Tomic delighted his home fans when he ousted the second-seeded Kei Nishikori 6-3, 1-6, 6-3 in a shade under two hours, putting him into a semi-final showdown against big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic, who downed Frenchman Lucas Pouille 6-4, 6-4.

Tomic powered through the first set before Nishikori fought back to take the second. But, after both players struggled to hold serve at the start of the third, Tomic took control and eased to victory.

The win came almost 12 months to the day Nishikori thumped Tomic 6-0, 6-4 at the same stage of last year's Brisbane tournament.

It almost certainly assures Tomic a top-16 seeding for the Australian Open, which begins on Jan 18.

"I had the opportunity to play him last year and it was a different level for me today," he said. "I've improved so much."

Meanwhile, world No. 1 Novak Djokovic insisted on Thursday that it is possible to win all four Grand Slams in a single season after coming agonisingly close last year.

The 28-year-old won the Australian and US Opens as well as Wimbledon last season but missed out on becoming the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to achieve the historic sweep when he lost the French Open final to Stan Wawrinka.

Asked if he could achieve it this time, Djokovic, speaking after entering the semi-finals of the Qatar Open by beating Argentina's Leonardo Mayer 6-3, 7-5, said: "I think anything is achievable.

"If you believe in it, if you dedicate yourself to it, why not?

"Why not visualise that and hope for that to happen? It's still very early for me to talk about the Grand Slam in a year. You know, that would be something very extraordinary, but it is possible. I definitely have that kind of mindset."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 09, 2016, with the headline 'AILING FEDERER PREVAILS'. Print Edition | Subscribe