Tennis

Federer turns back the clock

Swiss legend, 35, becomes oldest Australian Open semi-finalist in nearly four decades

Roger Federer is just one step away from his first Grand Slam final in 18 months, after he demolished giant-killer Mischa Zverev yesterday to set up an Australian Open semi-final with Stan Wawrinka.

Federer, 35 and considered past his prime after an injury-ruined 2016, rolled back the years with a masterful 6-1, 7-5, 6-2 win in just 92 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.

He also becomes the tournament's oldest semi-finalist since Arthur Ashe in 1978, and the oldest semi-finalist at a Grand Slam since Jimmy Connors reached the 1991 US Open last four at the age of 39.

Federer, who had won the Australian Open four times, takes on fellow Swiss and world No. 4 Wawrinka tomorrow in what promises to be an enthralling semi-final showdown.

To his surprise, Federer has won five matches in his comeback from a six-month injury layoff, with hopes rising of a record-extending 18th Grand Slam title, and first since 2012.

He said: "I felt I was always going to be dangerous on any given day in a match situation. But, obviously, as the tournament would progress, maybe I would fade away with energy.

"I think now that I'm in the semis, feeling as good as I am, playing as good as I am, that's a huge surprise to me."

It was a dominant performance from Federer, hitting 65 winners to just 13 unforced errors and breaking left-hander Zverev's serve six times.

I’m happy that he got this far, but he doesn’t need to go one step further. Roger Federer joking about his semi-final opponent and fellow Swiss Stan Wawrinka

"I think it definitely went as good as it possibly could have gone," Federer said. "I think I played great. Mischa has had a wonderful tournament."

GIANT-KILLER KILLED

Zverev, ranked world No. 50, had pulled off one of the major upsets of the tournament with a fourth-round win over world No. 1 Andy Murray, and he didn't play badly yesterday, making only 13 unforced effors.

Zverev didn't win a game in their most recent meeting at 2013 Halle, but he broke Federer's serve in the fourth game of the second set and won a total of eight games.

Federer ripped through the opening set in just 19 minutes, breaking Zverev's serve twice and not having one break point on his own service.

The Swiss legend helped himself to 18 winners with just five errors as he laid down the markers for Zverev, who was flummoxed by his mobility and shot variation.

Zverev remained true to his serve-volley game, coming to the net, but often being passed by crisp Federer volleys.

The 29-year-old German picked up his game in the second set and broke Federer with three break points in the fourth before the Swiss quickly broke back.

Zverev's serve again came under attack and he fell three break points down with Federer hitting two sublime backhand winners to take the break.

Federer raced to three set points on his next service before taking a two-set lead in 55 minutes.

He then uncorked another gorgeous backhand pass to take the decisive break in the fifth game of the final set, took Zverev to 10 deuces in the seventh game before breaking on his sixth break point for a 5-2 lead and to serve out for the match.

He said: "If someone would have told me I'd play in the semis against Stan, never would I have called that one for me. For Stan, yes, but not for me."

"I'm happy that he got this far, but he doesn't need to go one step further. That's enough," joked Federer, who could meet old rival Rafael Nadal in the final if the Spaniard overcomes Milos Raonic in their quarter-final today.

Wawrinka, who beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6 (7/2), 6-4, 6-3 in a bad-tempered quarter-final yesterday, was feeling upbeat ahead of playing his Davis Cup teammate.

Said the 31-year-old: "For sure, against Roger, it's always special because he's so good. He's the best player of all time.

"He has an answer for everything. But I have managed to beat him in a Grand Slam, so we'll see." - WIRE SERVICES

Roger FedererAustraliatennis