It wasn’t the prettiest display, and his opponent across the net made him work until the bitter end. But Roger Federer avoided losing on a Friday full of dramatic upsets—and falling to relative journeyman John Millman for the second time at a Slam—after coming through against the Aussie, 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (10-8), well after midnight for his 100th career win at the Australian Open.
The 38-year-old is the first player, man or woman, to reach the centennial mark at two different majors in the Open era after achieving the feat at Wimbledon last year.
"I was getting ready to explain myself in the press conference. The demons, they're there, they're lurking," Federer said in his on-court interview with Jim Courier. "I never really felt comfortable. I felt John did a good job keeping me on my back foot ... Until the last shot, then i went for it."
WATCH: Match point
At the 2018 US Open, Millman stunned Federer in the round of 16, achieving his best major result. In Melbourne, he looked to replicate his success by refusing to allow Federer to dictate on his terms. As the match went on, the 20-time major champion worked to get into net more, a strategy built on avoiding lengthy exchanges with the gritty Australian.
Millman kept grinding away to force a fifth set in the rocking Rod Laver Arena, and held an early break advantage, before Federer dug in to mount his escape. He saved two break points to hold for 4-3, and after reaching a decisive, 10-point tiebreaker, rallied from 8-4 down to deliver his best tennis under pressure in the encounter to complete the comeback in four hours and three minutes.
The win marked Federer's first in five sets since he triumphed over Marin Cilic in the 2018 final at Melbourne Park. He previously lost his most recent three deciders: to Kevin Anderson in the 2018 Wimbledon quarterfinals; to Novak Djokovic a year later at the All England Club in a final where he held two championship points; and to Grigor Dimitrov in the last eight of the 2019 US Open.
More to come from Joel Drucker and Steve Tignor.