The Australian Open has seen several prominent players dismissed early during the first week of play: Former Grand Slam champions Marat Safin, Amelie Mauresmo, Andy Roddick, Lindsay Davenport and Svetlana Kuznetsova have all been unceremoniously shown the exit.
Roger Federer, meanwhile, has advanced to the fourth round, but only barely after a narrow defeat of Janko Tipsarevic, another up-and-coming Serbian player and a favorite among Outsports readers.
Tipsarevic matched Federer's brilliance for much of the epic match that lasted four and a half hours. Federer needed a personal best 39 aces in scoring a 6-7(5), 7-6(1), 5-7, 6-1, 10-8 victory over the 2001 Australian Open junior champion.
Federer is chasing a 13th major title as he closes in on the all-time men's record, as well as fending off a challenge for the No. 1 ranking in the world by Rafael Nadal. Could the pressure finally be getting to the man who has seemed invincible for so long now? Or is this simply a case of an opponent finding the zone? Only time will tell, but certainly it seems that more and more players are willing to test Roger and believe that they can beat him. For all of his amazing weapons, Roger rarely has to rely on his heart, yet last night it was the fight in Federer that got him through his dramatic 3rd round battle with Tipsarevic. And it was wonderful to see.
Federer will need that competitive courage for the rest of this tournament and likely throughout the year. It's a promising sign for the tennis to come in 2008. For his part, Federer seems ready for the challenge.
"I don't often get to play five-setters unless they're against Nadal at Wimbledon," Federer observed. "It was good to be part of something like this." --Wyman Meers