Federer’s ‘blue steel’ moment cracks up Melbourne
DEFENDING champion Roger Federer continued his dominance over Richard Gasquet to reach the round of 16 at the Australian Open on Saturday and keep his quest for a 20th grand slam title on track.
The Swiss star beat the Frenchman 6-2 7-5 6-4 in just under two hours in a night match on Rod Laver Arena.
Federer, rated the favourite to win his 20th major even at the venerable age of 36, progressed to the fourth round at the Australian Open for the 16th time. And as classy as he was with racquet in hand, the packed stadium was just as appreciative of what he delivered when he traded his favourite tool for a microphone.
Clearly cooked from an intense match, Federer apologised for a somewhat rambling answer when asked first up what the difference between him and Gasquet was, prompting a sly sledge from interviewer Jim Courier of Channel Seven.
Roger Federer: I was able to stay more on the offensive than he was and maybe I was protecting my own serve better than him. The second set was tight. The match was close. Tough games. The end could have gone to a tiebreaker, and then you never know ... That's a terrible answer but Richard played well too and I happened to win tonight.
Jim Courier: That was a mediocre answer but it was a great match though.
From there the chat went to wonderful places like Federer's interaction with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and his look of "smouldering intensity" and whether the crowd likes his kids or not.
JC: You mentioned the word "intense" and intensity seems to be something that has been on your mind lately in the build-up to the tournament. You and The Rock have something going on Twitter about intensity. You have a look that you're working on, smouldering intensity ... do you think that we can get a little sample of that? It's a little bit like Zoolander, give us a blue steel on camera.
RF: On command it is really difficult. But sometimes it's ...
Then, mid sentence, Federer turned his head and gave us his best impression of "smouldering intensity". The crowd absolutely loved it and stadium erupted with laughter.
RF: I don't know if the people really care about hearing about my kids, I thought you guys would let me go and take a shower but I will take the mic and we will just have a Q&A. The girls have really fallen in love with tennis now over the last three months or so but it has been a struggle (for) the last four years. We are getting something back on the return on the investment! My god, they were so not motivated, it was incredible.
Federer ended on a classy note that won over even more people - if that was even possible.
RF: I guess that I was like that too when I was younger and the boys seem to enjoy themselves more. They like it which is nice. I'm just happy they play tennis and we can play as a family and they can play with their friends one day. This is not about becoming professional tennis players, if they do that I will support it. I just want them to play sport, stay active and go out there with their friends and have fun. They are doing that and that is wonderful.
Federer has unheralded Hungarian and one-time training partner Marton Fucsovics up next and a potential quarter-final with Tomas Berdych, who upset Juan Martin del Porto in straight sets earlier on Saturday.
The Swiss has only lost twice to Gasquet in their 19 meetings, winning all of their four grand slam encounters.
Significantly, Gasquet hasn't won a set against Federer since 2011 - a run of 22 sets to the Swiss.
Federer, who did not face a break point in 26 games, lost his only serve in the match late in the third set on his second break point, such was his dominance.
The Swiss legend broke Gasquet's serve five times and hit 42 winners with 30 unforced errors.
He improved his Australian Open record to 90-13.
Federer is coming off an extraordinary 2017, when he won a fifth Australian Open title and a record eighth at Wimbledon, after returning from an injury lay-off.
It was in Melbourne a year ago where he lit the fuse on his late-life tennis renaissance, beating Berdych, Kei Nishikori, Mischa Zverev and Stan Wawrinka before downing great rival Rafael Nadal in a five-set final classic.