Federer rediscovers top form
11:31am Monday 20th January 2014 in © Press Association 2014
Roger Federer put himself in the frame as a potential Australian Open winner with a vintage display to beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and reach the quarter-finals.
It was the perfect birthday present for Federer's new coach Stefan Edberg, who turned 48 on Sunday, as an aggressive display from the sixth seed saw him power to a 6-3 7-5 6-4 victory.
But if Federer is to win an 18th grand slam title he will have to do it the hard way, with Wimbledon champion Andy Murray next up and Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic likely to stand in his way also.
Age appeared finally to be catching up with the great man last season as he endured his worst year in more than a decade, dropping as low as seventh in the rankings and seeing his run of consecutive grand slam quarter-finals ended at 36.
But Federer always insisted his struggles were largely caused by back problems, which he overcame towards the end of the season.
He began this year with a full winter's training behind him and a new, larger-headed racquet, potentially a key weapon in helping him negate the effects of having lost a bit of speed.
Federer had cruised through his first three rounds but he had not played anyone of note, so assessing his form was not easy.
That was certainly not the case against Tsonga, who Federer beat in five sets in the quarter-finals last year.
From the start the Swiss looked sharp, breaking serve in the second game and easily holding throughout the first set.
All the pressure was coming from Federer and, although Tsonga held on until 5-5 in the second set, the 32-year-old was quick to take his chance when it came.
Federer and Edberg have only been working together for a week but the Swede's influence already seemed apparent, with Federer coming to the net 41 times during the match and winning 34 of the points.
The writing seemed on the wall for Tsonga when Federer broke again to lead 2-1, although the Frenchman at least fought back from 0-40 in the seventh game to keep it to one break.
Tsonga had roared in frustration after Federer won the first three points and hit a ball out of Rod Laver Arena in his anger.
It certainly worked in his favour, and in the next game he brought up his first break point of the match but netted a return.
Federer hit his first double fault of the match on his first match point but took it on the second with a clinical forehand volley.
The victory took the Swiss only an hour and 52 minutes, while he chalked up 43 winners compared to 21 unforced errors.