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Federer Gracious in Praise of Sunday Opponent at Aussie Open

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — As befitting his status as a 17-time Grand Slam champion and as an astute judge of the sport, Roger Federer’s reply to a simple question about his next opponent was handled with the same aplomb as one of his stylish groundstrokes.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 20: Roger Federer of Swizterland celebrates his win in his third round match against Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic walks on on day five of the 2017 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 20, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 20: Roger Federer of Swizterland celebrates his win in his third round match against Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic walks on on day five of the 2017 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 20, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

The player in question was Kei Nishikori, who plays Federer in a fourth-round night match Sunday at Rod Laver Arena.

“I’m a big fan of his game,” Federer said. “He’s got one of the best backhands out there. I love how he can crush it down the line or cross-court. He’s got wonderful second serve returns. He’s fast on his legs. Strong in his mind. I know how tough he is as the match goes along. He finds his range and his rhythm, he’s tough to stop.”

Federer said he’ll need another strong service game if he’s going to give Nishikori some trouble. In Federer’s win over Tomas Berdych on Thursday, he didn’t face a break point and he won points on 95 percent of the first serves he got into play – 39 of 41, and all 16 in the third and final set.

“This one’s going to be completely different to Tomas … there’s going to be more rallies, even though the surface remains fast. I said it at the beginning of the week, it’s not easy to control the ball. Today again, when you serve well, it pays dividends. I hope I can keep that up against Kei.”

Asked if Nishikori should be considered the favorite because of the No. 5 seeding (Federer is 17th after a six-month left knee injury layoff) Federer replied, smiling: “Yeah, sure, he’s the favorite. Maybe. I don’t know.”

Nishikori said he watched some of the Federer-Berdych match and was impressed.

“Roger, it’s a big challenge for me,” Nishikori said. “I’m just happy to play him because I think we needed him on the tour. Happy to see him back 100 percent.”

Original author: AP
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