Federer finds way to rally, survive

Monday, January 26, 2009

MELBOURNE, Australia -- For two sets it looked as if Roger Federer's run at a record 14th Grand Slam title was going to be derailed by Tomas Berdych at the Australian Open.

Then the 6-foot-5 Czech had a meltdown, and Federer swooped, recovering for a 4-6, 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 victory Sunday -- only his fourth career comeback from two sets down -- to reach the quarterfinals.

"You've got to hang in there, there's no other solution," Federer said. "Tried to weather the storm. He was hitting the ball so heavy and so hard. He pushed me to the limit."

Defending champion Novak Djokovic wasn't pushed while taking a 5-0 lead, then had to work hard for a 6-1, 7-6 (1), 6-7 (5), 6-2 victory over 2006 runner-up Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus.

The atmosphere was more like a soccer match, with large contingents from Melbourne's Greek and Serbian communities loudly cheering between points. The players got a late start and didn't finish until 2:26 a.m. Monday local time.

"It's never easy to play the second week of a Grand Slam, especially against a great player like Marcos," Djokovic said. "It wasn't easy, we had to wait [to start] for a couple of hours. But I'm happy I got through in four sets."

Baghdatis holds the record for the latest finishing match at the Australian Open, his five-set, third-round loss to Lleyton Hewitt last year finishing at 4:34 a.m.

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