Swiss tennis great Roger Federer laid down a marker for the Australian Open when he swatted away the challenge of Grigor Dimitrov in the semi-finals of the Brisbane International Saturday.
Federer took just 53 minutes in a 6-2, 6-2 demolition of the world number 11 from Bulgaria, his 999th win on the ATP Tour.
Dimitrov, along with Milos Raonic and Kei Nishikori, is seen as one of the players most likely to end the dominance of Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.
But the Swiss maestro showed just how far Dimitrov has to go if he wants to get to that level.
Federer’s service return was exemplary. He broke Dimitrov four times and never allowed the 23-year-old to settle into the match.
Federer now has the chance to stamp his authority over another potential challenger, Raonic, who downed Nishikori in an epic two-and-a-half hour semi-final on Pat Rafter Arena.
“His game is based more on the serve, but he’s making improvements from the baseline and taking bigger cuts at the ball now,” Federer said of Raonic.
“He’s not just waiting for mistakes from the opponents, like he did at the beginning of his career more often.”
Nishikori (5) and Raonic (8) are only three places apart on the world rankings, and the two were closely matched throughout an enthralling contest which the Canadian won 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (7/4).
Neither player lost his serve and Raonic won a total of 120 points, only two more than Nishikori’s 118.
Raonic, who has one of the biggest serves in world tennis, regularly fired down thunderbolts at well over 200 kilometres an hour.
He blasted 34 aces over the three sets, and served only three double faults, a reflection of the work he has put in on his serve in the off-season.
Raonic conceded he would have to be on top of his service game once again if he is to beat Federer.
“I’ve got to serve well, that’s always been a key,” he said.
“The last few matches I started poorly (against him). I would get broken right in my first service game, which is not the way to really go about things, especially against a top player and especially against Roger.”