Roger Federer gave tennis fans yet another reason to love him after an epic against-the-odds victory in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open.
Hampered by a groin injury, the six-time champion appeared headed for a shock exit on Tuesday night against unseeded American Tennys Sandgren before rallying for a miraculous 6-3 2-6 2-6 7-6 (10-8) 6-3 victory.
The 20-time major winner looked gone for all money on numerous occasions throughout the contest, surviving seven match points before booking his place in the final four.
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Rather than revel in his own incredible victory, Federer pointed out how unfortunate Sandgren was to have lost, in a true mark of his character.
The ever-humble Federer conceded that he didn’t deserve to win in a classy post-match interview.
“I think I got incredibly lucky today,” the Swiss star said.
“I was just hoping that maybe he was not going to smash the winner on that one point.
“As the match went on I started to feel better again, all the pressure went away and I just tried to play.
“I don’t deserve this one but I’m standing here and I’m obviously very, very happy.”
Federer's modest admission saw fans praise the 38-year-old on social media, with some fans describing his great escape as a "miracle".
How are seven match points overcome?! Witnessed this evening was the mental fortitude of the champion of twenty majors and the winner of one tournament whose played not one point of a major semi-final 🎾 Appreciate this triumph, the resolve of Roger Federer #AustralianOpen— Raymond Smalley (@raymondsmalley) January 28, 2020
Federer escapes. Saving seven match points against Sandgren. It wasn’t vintage Federer but he finds a way. Great champions manage and find solutions to problems even more when not at their best.— Kyle LaCroix (@TennisTycoon) January 28, 2020
Oh my god!! Oh my god!!! The👑🐐 did it. 💪🏾💪🏾🙌🏽— Lola Longfield (@TitanRFederer) January 28, 2020
A true champion!!
I knew he could. I knew he would. Coming back from two sets down with an injury to win the match. Only Roger Federer.
Roger Federer beats Sandgren 6-3 in the 5th, saving 7(!!) match points along the way to advance to the #AusOpen semifinals.— Matt Dowell (@TheMattDowell) January 28, 2020
The stuff of champions.
That was amazing.
Federer’s 4th set performance against Sandrgren should be put on display in The Louvre,be taught in school and become the official description of never ever giving up. To be physically hurt and having such a mental setback & to come back is why I say Federer is the GOAT. #miracle— Zubair Baig (@zubz911) January 28, 2020
Federer brushes off injury concerns
Despite the groin complaint that saw Federer receive treatment, the Swiss star played down the extent of the problem after the match.
"I don't know if you can call it an injury, it's just pain and problems and I need to figure it out now," Federer said.
"Two good nights of sleep and doctors and physios and hopefully we'll find out that it's actually nothing bad, that it's just a groin that went really tight. I'm hopeful but we'll find out."
Federer's victory earned him a record-extending 46th grand slam semi-final appearance and a date with reigning champion Novak Djokovic in the last four.
Bidding for his first final four spot and to become the first US man in the Open semi-finals since Andy Roddick in 2009, Sandgren had seven match points in the fourth set.
But the moment got the better of the world No.100 while Federer - playing in his 1512th career match - held his nerve.
Federer needed a medical time-out in the third set, but didn't believe the injury would hinder his chances of a record-equalling seventh Open crown.
"I've got nothing to do tomorrow and then I play at night so you do feel better in a couple of days and then you just never know again," he said.
"With these lucky escapes, you might play without any expectations anymore because you know you should really be skiing in Switzerland.
"So there you go - I'm lucky to be here and I will make the most of it."
Federer looked in full control early, taking the first set in 34 minutes, but Sandgren broke early in the second set and as the wheels started to fall off a hush fell over the venue.
Down 0-3 in the third set, the world No.3 was angered when he received a code violation warning for a verbal obscenity after being reported by a lineswoman.
He then called for a physio and left the court for treatment.
Federer, who has never retired mid-match, said he was determined to see it out.
"I believe in miracles - it could be rain, there could be stuff, I don't know - it wasn't bad enough that I thought I was going to get worse, it was just stiff and tight.
"I thought I would just let him finish me off in style - and he didn't."
Sandgren had three match points on Federer's serve at 5-4 but was unable to find the winner with the set then going to a tiebreak.
It was locked at 3-3 when a ballkid bizarrely ran into Sandgren's leg at the changeover, with the American taking time to walk off the blow.
Unrattled, he steamed ahead to lead 6-3 but again couldn't close it out.
He had one final chance at 8-7 but Federer showed his poise to level and then clinch the set.
A deflated Sandgren was unable to lift in the fifth, with the 20-time major champion breaking to go ahead 4-2 before sealing victory.