There are many advantages to being the best player in history and Roger Federer was reminded of another of them here today when tournament organisers announced the schedule for tomorrow’s matches at the Australian Open.
For his fourth match in succession at this year’s tournament the 31-year-old Swiss will have the benefit of the cooler evening conditions when he meets Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarter-finals. Andy Murray, meanwhile, will play during the heat of the day for his fifth match in a row when he takes on Jeremy Chardy.
While it is easy to understand the tournament’s decision – a match between Federer and Tsonga, the 2008 runner-up, clearly has greater appeal for the locals than Murray against a comparatively unknown Frenchman – the scheduling is not doing the Scot any favours.
Although there has been only one brutally hot day at this year’s event, when Murray beat Joao Sousa last Thursday, the world No 3 will know that if he overcomes Chardy tomorrow he will go into his semi-final (against Federer or Tsonga) having had no chance to experience a match played in the different conditions that prevail in the evening. When the sun goes down the balls do not fly as fast through the air and do not bounce as high.
“The thing you need to get used to is the timing of the ball and the speed of the courts because they change when it’s dark,” Murray said.
The Scot, nevertheless, gives the impression that he will not be letting anything disturb his relaxed frame of mind. He could even see a positive side to playing regularly during the hotter part of the day. “The thing that’s good about playing in the day, especially here, is that when you do play in the evening, the conditions feel fine to play in,” he said.
Although Murray said it would have been ideal to get an evening match under his belt, he will not be fretting about it. “You just get on with it,” he said. “Sometimes the schedule works well for you and sometimes it doesn’t work out perfectly.
“I’ve had scenarios like at the US Open where it worked in my favour. Wimbledon didn’t necessarily work in my favour this year, or last year, and the first US Open final I played it didn’t work in my favour, but you don’t dictate the schedule. You just try and play and deal with everything as best you can.”
Thankfully for Murray, the weather continues to be kind to the players. The temperature tomorrow is not predicted to rise above a pleasantly warm 24C. The hottest day of the week is likely to be Thursday, when the daytime temperature is forecast to peak at 33C. For the final three days of the tournament it is not expected to rise above 23C. If Murray wins tomorrow his semi-final would be played on Friday evening, with the final on Sunday evening.
Murray may not have had the more favourable scheduling, but he is likely to face an easier quarter-final than Federer. Chardy, the world No 36, has a big serve and a punishing forehand, but he can be erratic. He beat Murray in their most recent meeting in Cincinnati last summer, but has lost all four of their previous matches.
Federer, in contrast, comes up against an opponent who has caused him major trouble in the past. Tsonga, who loves playing here, has beaten Federer three times, most famously in the quarter-finals at Wimbledon two years ago.
David Ferrer became the first man to reach the semi-finals when he knocked out Nicolas Almagro today with a typically gutsy performance. The world No 5 beat his fellow Spaniard 4-6, 4-6, 7-5, 7-6, 6-2 after three hours and 44 minutes. Almagro served for the match three times in the third set, but Ferrer refused to capitulate.
“It was a miracle I won this match,” said the world No 5, who now faces a semi-final against Novak Djokovic or Tomas Berdych, who were meeting in the first match of today’s evening programme.
Maria Sharapova continued her immaculate form when she beat her fellow Russian, Ekaterina Makarova, 6-2, 6-2. Sharapova has dropped a total of nine games in her first five matches, a record for the tournament.
In the last four Sharapova will meet China’s Li Na, who inflicted a first defeat of the year on Agnieszka Radwanska. Li, who won 7-5, 6-3, has now reached the semi-finals or better here in three of the last four years.