Roger Federer couldn't have asked for a better start to his 2015 season. The No. 2 became the just the third man in the Open Era to win 1,000 career matches after defeating Milos Raonic 6-4, 6-7 (2), 6-4 to win the Brisbane International. Playing in his 125th career final, Federer joins Ivan Lendl and Jimmy Connors as the only men to win at least 1,000 matches. Connors holds the record with 1,253 career wins.
With the win, Federer now sits 1, 530 points behind No. 1 Novak Djokovic heading into the Australian Open. In his first match of the season, Federer rallied from a set and a break down to Australian wildcard John Milman, ranked No. 153, to win 4-6, 6-4, 6-3. He went on to lose just five games in his next two matches, beating James Duckworth 6-0, 6-1 and then dominating No. 11 Grigor Dimitrov 6-2, 6-2 to advance to the final. On Sunday he withstood a barrage of power tennis from Raonic to win his 83rd ATP title.
"It feels very different to any other match I've ever won," Federer said. "1,000 means a lot because it's such a huge number. Just alone to count to 1,000 is going to take a while. It's funny emotions right now, but clearly very proud and happy."
Federer's milestone overshadowed a fantastic effort from Raonic, who played one of the best matches of his career only to fall just short in the final set. Raonic battled back from a break down in the second set to force a tiebreaker and roll to a 7-2 win to force a tense and nervy decisive set. Five of the first six games of the third set went to deuce, with both men forced to save multiple break points. Raonic had his chances and earned five break points in Federer's first three service games. The Swiss saved them all behind some clutch serving and couldn't capitalize on his four break opportunities until the final game of the match.
Serving to stay in the match, Raonic double-faulted at 30-all to give Federer his first match point. That was all Federer needed, as he got a look at a second serve and took control of the rally. The match finally ended after two hours and 14 minutes when Raonic put a cross-court forehand into the tape. Despite a night in which he frustrated Federer with his consistent heavy hitting and some of the best volleying he's ever displayed, Raonic suffered his fourth straight loss to a top ten player in a final.
"I gave myself a chance after being down a set and a break," Raonic said. "I think it just shows the development I've been able to make over the last little while. You put me in that same situation few months and weeks ago and I think I could be out of that stadium pretty quickly. Give and take few situations, I couldn't have asked for a better way to go into the Australian Open."
Federer finished with 43 winners to 21 unforced errors, and out-aced Raonic, hitting 21 aces to the Canadian's 12. Raonic hit 49 winners to 32 unforced errors. The net play from both men was outstanding. Federer went 16 for 17 at the net and Raonic went 18 for 25.
"Looking back it's almost nicer winning this way, through a tight match with nerves and humid conditions against a great player in a final," Federer said. "It means so much more than just running away with it with the score maybe 6-4, 6-4, which was looking very likely at one stage. I guess I was much more happy having to go three sets in the end rather than winning in straight."
Stan Wawrinka repeats at the Chennai Open
It was an all-Swiss Sunday after Wawrinka followed up Federer's win in Brisbane by defending his title at the Chennai Open. Wawrinka defeated surprise finalist Aljaz Bedene 6-3, 6-4 to win Chennai for a third time. The No. 4 did not drop a set all week. It's the perfect start of the season as he heads to Melbourne to defend his title.
Sydney and Hobart get underway
The WTA first rounds kicked off at the Sydney International and Hobart International with a few notable results. Madison Keys defeated Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-4, 6-4 in Sydney and Sloane Stephens defeated Monica Niculescu 6-4, 6-2 in Hobart. 17-year-old Belinda Bencic, who will go into the Australian Open seeded, was stunned by Russian wildcard Daria Gavrilova 6-3, 6-0 in Sydney.
Photo of the day
Video of the day
Full Federer-Raonic highlights here.
Video of the day: Daredevil edition
Here is a video of a knife-thrower practicing his talents on Sloane Stephens in Hobart. Yes, we are as shocked as you are.
Vine of the day
Tweets of the day
[This post has been updated]