By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – A rampaging Roger Federer delivered a stunning reminder of his class with a crushing 6-2 6-4 6-4 win over Tomas Berdych to storm into the fourth round of the Australian Open on Friday.
Seeded 17th and playing only his third tour match since a long layoff with a knee injury, Federer was expected to be tested by the hard-hitting Czech but he sent the 10th seed packing in 90 minutes.
The 35-year-old Swiss had shown rust in his earlier matches but was in spell-binding touch with 40 winners and completed the masterclass at a floodlit Rod Laver Arena with an imperious crosscourt backhand.
“It was a great mental test for me to see if I could stay in the match point for point, keep rolling,” said a glowing Federer, who cracked jokes in his post-match news conference and will next face fifth seed Kei Nishikori brimful of confidence.
“I was able to do that. That’s where I’m just really happy that I was able to deliver that.
“From the baseline, honestly I felt worlds better than in the first couple of rounds. Yeah, it’s wonderful.”
Switched on from the first point, Federer bullied Berdych at the net and denied him a single break point as 11-times grand slam champion Laver soaked up the performance.
For the Berdych camp, it was a horror show and the Czech was reduced to scrapping for speculative points with clumsy, desperate rushes to the net.
Home fans in the crowd had been deflated by the defeat of Australian Ashleigh Barty in the evening session’s opener but they roared back into life when Federer took Berdych’s serve in the fifth game.
The Swiss broke again to race to 5-2 and showed his sharpness by raising two set points with a brilliantly anticipated volley from a deflection off the net cord.
A thumping serve wrapped up the set in 26 minutes and a harried Berdych dropped serve again in the opening game of the second when he shanked an attempted winner into the tramlines.
The set was over less than 30 minutes later but the Federer juggernaut rolled on.
A sumptuous return down the line brought break point in the opener of the third set and another regal backhand gave Federer a fourth break.
That was all the Swiss needed and though he feared a hiccough at some stage during the match, it never came.
Berdych remarked drily after the match that he wished he was watching the demonstration from the crowd and Federer admitted he was surprised by his own level.
“I didn’t expect it as such, to be honest, especially not this kind of a scoreline, especially not having to save any breakpoints, just always rolling on the serve,” the 17-times grand slam champion said.
“I expected, was ready for a battle, five hours, something big. Had it all written over it. I was able to come through it in one hour 20, one hour 30, however long the match was.
“It’s a great feeling.”
(Editing by Ed Osmond)