Federer grinds down Murray to set Nadal clash; Dreams of all-Swiss AO final

Roger Federer overcame a gutsy Andy Murray on Wednesday night in Melbourne to reach the Australian Open semi-finals with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-7(6), 6-3 victory. The Swiss prevailed in the dramatic contest to reach the last four at Melbourne Park for the 11th year in a row and set a blockbuster clash with Rafael Nadal.

"It's really a big pleasure for me being back in the semi-finals," said Federer. "This one feels different because of the tougher times I've had in slams, Wimbledon, at the US Open. It's nice to be back in the semis and defend my points from last year.

"I definitely sensed that today, I am back physically," said Federer. "I'm explosive out there. I can get to balls. I'm not afraid to go for balls. It was a great game on many levels today, not just physically. Also just mentally it was tough. Then I really played some good tennis. I was very happy."

Federer has lost his past four meetings against Nadal and trails their Head 2 Head 10-22, but the Swiss is hopeful that new coach Stefan Edberg can give him the edge in their 33rd meeting.

"I'm happy I get a chance to play him in a slam again," said Federer. "I'm looking forward to speaking to Stefan, because when we spoke together when he came to Dubai and we spoke about the game, we clearly spoke about playing Rafa, as well.

"He thought he had some good ideas, so I'm looking forward to what he has to say. Clearly with Severin, he knows him inside out. I'm looking forward to hearing what the boys have to say. We'll prepare. I hope I can get a win."

The 32-year-old Federer is bidding to win his 18th Grand Slam championship and fifth title at Melbourne Park, having lifted the trophy in 2004, 2006-07 and 2010, when he beat Murray in the final. His last major triumph came 18 months ago at Wimbledon, where he also prevailed over Murray.

The Basel native improved to a 10-11 standing against Murray as he broke down the Briton in three hours and 20 minutes on Rod Laver Arena. Murray saved two match points on the brink of defeat in the third set, but a lack of match fitness and sharpness, having only just returned from back surgery, proved decisive for Murray as Federer closed out the win.

Looking to avenge the five-set defeat he suffered to Murray in last year’s Australian Open semi-finals, Federer made a fast start, breaking the Scot in the fourth game for a 3-1 lead. Showcasing a greater tendency to attack the net, Federer dominated on serve, surrendering just five of 25 points as he wrapped up the opener in 31 minutes.

Federer was relentless in the second set. He broke Murray again in the fifth game as he powered into a two-set lead. Murray was unable to engineer a break point as Federer came to the net 13 times and closed out the set in 48 minutes.

Federer looked set for a straight-sets win as he broke Murray for a 5-4 lead in the third set. However, serving for the match, the Swiss went down 15/40, offering Murray his first two break points of the match. Murray converted his second, attacking with a backhand down the line to force the error from Federer.

In the ensuing tie-break, Federer opened up a 6-4 lead. He was again thwarted, though. First a forehand error and then a backhand mistake saw his match points vanish and Murray pounced. The Scot painted the line with a forehand winner to earn a set point and converted to force a fourth set.

Federer was always in control in the fourth set. The Swiss was denied on six break points in an 18-minute second game, but always had Murray under pressure and the ailing Scot succumbed in the eighth game. Federer broke for a 5-3 lead before serving out victory at the second time of asking.

The 26-year-old Murray is a three-time runner-up at the Australian Open and was looking to reach the semi-finals Down Under for the fifth year in a row. The Dunblane native underwent back surgery in September, three months after winning his second Grand Slam title at Wimbledon (d. Djokovic). He returned to the courts at the start of 2014 in Doha.

"I gave him the break at the end of the match. That was disappointing," reflected Murray. "In the first two sets I thought he played great tennis. When he was serving for the match I felt like I raised my level because I had to basically, and obviously prolonged the match a bit further. I just wasn't able to get ahead in the fourth set.

"I was proud of the way I fought. That's the highest level I've played at in a long time. I hung in well. I pushed through it. Almost got myself back in the match."

Federer on all-Swiss Australian Open final

Federer baulked at envisaging a first all-Swiss Australian Open final, admitting both would be on the same flight back to Switzerland if they dared think too far ahead.

First he would have to find a way past Nadal who have denied him in big matches more than any other player. Wawrinka, for his part, would have to hold his nerve against Czech Tomas Berdych.

"Plus what I really love is another Swiss is in the semis as well. It's the first time in history. So that's a big deal. I was really happy for Stan last night, because he's been putting in an amazing effort for the last years and didn't always get compensated. That's the big news for me.

"It's nice seeing it turning around for him. And for me, yeah, I hope I can make it to the finals. Clearly when you're in the semis you start dreaming. There's no doubt about that," Federer said.

It appears, not even Federer, on the eve of his own quarterfinal showdown, could turn the television off when Wawrinka and Djokovic raised the stakes in their five-set battle.

"At the end I was standing up, hands in the air like him. That's what it was, you know," he said. "When he wins big points, yeah, I guess you do fist pump. I high-five with Mirka. So it was good fun last night. We watched the entire fifth set together."

Date: 22nd January 2014, Source: ATP and Australian Open


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