MELBOURNE • Swiss great Roger Federer was delighted to become the first man to reach 300 Grand Slam wins yesterday, as he swept past Grigor Dimitrov to reach the Australian Open fourth round.
The 34-year-old said it was "very exciting" to reach 300 wins, a total that leaves him just six away from Martina Navratilova's record of 306 and moves him closer to a fifth Australian Open title.
The 17-time Major winner won 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 in 2hr 40min under the closed roof on Rod Laver Arena and will face Belgium's 15th seed David Goffin in the next round.
"It's very exciting, I must tell you," Federer said of his 300th Grand Slam win, a sequence that also started at the Australian Open when he beat Michael Chang in the first round in 1999.
"Like when I reached 1,000 (career wins) last year, it was a big deal for me. Not something I ever aimed for or looked for, but when it happens, it's very special. You look deeper into it, I guess, where it's all happened and how. So it's very nice, I'm very happy."
Among the men, Jimmy Connors is a distant second to Federer with 233 wins at Major tournaments.
With the landmark victory, Federer also extends his record over Bulgarian 27th seed Dimitrov, dubbed "Baby Fed" because of the similarity in their playing styles, to 5-0.
Last year, Federer was ambushed in the third round by Italian Andreas Seppi, but he made no mistake this time at the same stage.
However, it was not an entirely convincing display from the four-time Australian Open winner, who committed an uncharacteristic 55 unforced efforts, much more than Dimitrov's 44.
"It was a difficult position for me after losing the second set and Grigor was playing well. I thought I was struggling a little bit," said the third seed. "I didn't feel it was really happening out there and it was an important start for me to the third set.
"Thankfully I got the early break and I was able to stay in the lead and everything started to come back, the serve, my footwork."
He lost his serve only once in 18 service games and broke the Bulgarian's serve four times, twice in the third set, with Dimitrov troubled by a sore right elbow and losing serving power. He sought courtside treatment from the trainer several times during the match.
"I'm not going to lie. Losses like that always hurt... but I just haven't played that kind of matches on that level for a while," said Dimitrov, who for all the expectations has yet to prove that he can break the dominance of the "Big Five" of Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal and Stan Wawrinka.
Then again, Djokovic has been threatening to turn the oligopoly into the "Big One". The world No. 1, coming off an astonishing 2015 season which fell only one win short of a calendar-year Grand Slam, is continuing his imperious form in this year's opening Major.
The 10-time Grand Slam champion survived two set points in a final-set tie-breaker before completing a 6-1, 7-5, 7-6 (8-6) win over Seppi. "It's almost like after the 2015 season that I've had, anything aside from a title or a final is not a success," said the Serb. "I still feel like I can do more."
But there is nothing left for Nick Kyrgios to do here, after Tomas Berdych extinguished the hopes of the young Australian showman to join Djokovic in the fourth round.
The Czech, a two-time semi-finalist, was too cool and focused for the easily distracted 20-year-old, winning 6-3, 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 in a rowdy night match on Rod Laver Arena.
Day 6: Singtel TV Ch114/115 and StarHub Ch208/209, 8am and 4pm