MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Roger Federer continues his quest for a 21st Grand Slam title at the Australian Open on Tuesday but for his journeyman opponent Tennys Sandgren their quarter-final meeting is the latest chapter in a story of survival in professional tennis.
Aptly named for the sport he loves after his Swedish great-grandfather, Sandgren has spent much of his career playing on satellite tours and said after dumping out Fabio Fognini on Sunday that he perhaps “shouldn’t be here”.
“I wasn’t supposed to be here... there are better players than me that I played with in Futures and Challengers that have stopped playing because they ran out of money or got injured or something like that,” the 28-year-old said.
“The fact that I was blessed enough to keep hold of my dream and to be able to try and fulfill it, have the body to do so, the opportunities... definitely blessed.”
Sandgren, whose only ATP title came at Auckland last year, has often produced miracles on the grandest stage and heads into the clash with Federer with a 5-2 record against top-20 players in Grand Slams - a better win percentage than the Swiss.
“It’s worked out well. There’s definitely a world where it didn’t work out. Some of the margins were small for me to have some of these opportunities. I don’t take it for granted,” Sandgren added.
Federer, who beat Marton Fucsovics to advance, brought out the “dad jokes” about playing a lot of tennis but never against Tennys, but the Swiss is well aware that playing against the world number 100 will be no laughing matter.
“Yeah, I’m looking forward to that match. I’ve seen him play a lot... you always wonder on TV sometimes, it always looks better than it could be in real,” Federer said.
“All of a sudden you face him, it’s going to be this big and this strong... it was impressive how he was competing (against) Fognini. I’m looking forward to a tough one.”
Sandgren, who reached the last eight at Melbourne two years ago, is confident that he can produce his best tennis again in front of a large crowd at Rod Laver Arena.
“To play him (Federer) on a big stage like quarters of a slam would be a ton of fun really,” Sandgren said.
“Getting to play in a big stadium, getting to play in front of a lot of people... I’ve played a lot of tennis in front of very few people, the fact I get to do that seems to bring out the best in me.”
In other matches, seven-times champion Novak Djokovic meets Milos Raonic, world number one Ash Barty plays Petra Kvitova and Sofia Kenin faces Ons Jabeur.
Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman