Roger Federer has surpassed expectations, including his own, with his performances at the Australian Open.
Roger Federer has surpassed expectations, including his own, with his performances at the Australian Open. Clive Brunskill

Stars align for Federer

ROGER Federer may very well be in the right place at the right time to secure his 18th grand slam title.

Call it serendipity, but the stars have aligned for the greatest player of the modern era to add to his silverware collection.

Novak Djokovic? Gone. Andy Murray? Gone.

And so the draw that at first seemed so inhospitable has become all the more palatable.

Up next is giant slayer Mischa Zverev, the world No.50 who humbled Murray in four sets at Rod Laver Arena on Sunday.

The Russian-born German amassed an astonishing 119 serve-and-volley attempts - a statistic somewhat incongruous with the modern game.

It was the biggest match of Zverev's career. But can he back it up?

It wouldn't just be a giant slaying, but one that denies the king of men's tennis a historic grand slam win.

The pair has met twice, Federer prevailing in straight sets both times, although their last encounter was in 2013.

The 35-year-old will go into the match as the overwhelming favourite, with his form and reputation combining to make him the punter's pick.

"That Novak and Andy are not (still in the tournament), that is a big surprise,” Federer said.

"I never thought that Mischa Zverev and Denis Istomin would beat those two big guys.

"I guess it's good for tennis, you know, that a lot of guys believe stronger now that the top guys are beatable, are vulnerable, especially on a faster court. It happened completely in different circumstances.

"But two huge surprises. No doubt about that.”

Surprises they may be, but Federer also has himself to thank.

After a six-month injury lay-off, the Swiss Maestro stunned Tomas Berdych in the third round, defeating the 10th seed in a miserly 90 minutes. It was clinical. It was magical. It smashed everyone's expectations, including Federer's.

"I was hoping to play good against better-ranked players because I guess I know them more and I know these match-ups so well,” Federer said after his straight sets victory over Berdych.

"Maybe sometimes it's easier to play against them than it is against a qualifier, somebody I've only played a few times.

"So I didn't expect it as such, to be honest, especially not this kind of a scoreline, especially not having to save no breakpoints, just always rolling on the serve. That was a big surprise to me.”

Federer's performance against fifth seed Kei Nishikori on Sunday night was less of a one-sided affair.

But Federer's ability to defeat his younger opponent in five sets only enhanced his Open credentials.

Down a double break in the first set, he pushed Nishikori to a tiebreak. He lost, but he had set the tone for himself and the match.

"I mean I wasn't playing badly,” Federer set after defeating Nishikori.

"It was about staying calm at that moment being down love, 15-20, going six love. It wouldn't get worse from there.”

"It was hard not to win that first set after all the effort. It did pay off somehow in the end.”

If Federer defeats Zverev, and the seeds fall accordingly, Federer will face countryman Stan Wawrinka in the semi- finals.

But if the 2017 Open has taught us anything, it's to expect the unexpected.