Federer fires out a warning
After some first-week wonkiness, losing some sets he would not expect to, Roger Federer looked close to his best in his 6-1 6-3 6-3 win over fellow Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open.
The world number two's general command of the court stood out. He moved forwards at every opportunity, dominating his good friend from the word "play". Wawrinka won only two points in the first three games, setting the tone for the rest of the match.
As the contest went on, Federer turned on the style, bringing out the crowd-pleasing shots to demonstrate his confidence and on-court contentment.
An under-par or under-weather Federer rarely executes daring drop shots, drives round the net post or hits through the legs. There was an exhibition element to much of this performance, which, while not perfect, was clearly his best of the tournament.
I watched from courtside. "Swiss Power!" shouted a man to my right. A girl in the 10th row unfurled a banner that read: "Federer is Betterer". A bloke behind had a t-shirt bearing the slogan: "I'm Fed-Up". That earned him a big-screen close-up. Everyone else whooped and sighed in that Federer-watching way.
Wawrinka, after a faultless tournament, could only watch and admire his Olympic-winning doubles partner, although the spectacular wreckage of a racket, mangled after the second game of the third set, was Turner Prize-winning evidence of his frustration.
This is why it is impossible to judge Federer in the first week of majors. Somehow he just flicks a switch when the tests get tougher. Although the opposition is undeniably strong here in Melbourne, he will be hard to stop if he plays like this for the rest of the event.