Federer into 28th Grand Slam final
Originally published on 26/01/17 00:00
The 17-time Grand Slam champion ended a run five Australian Open semi-final defeats in six years with a 7-5 6-3 1-6 4-6 6-3 victory on Rod Laver Arena.
No.17 seed Federer appeared to be in control of the match as Wawrinka left the court in tears to receive treatment on a knee injury after falling two sets to love behind, but the US Open champion roared back to take the match to a decider before Federer sealed victory in five sets after three hours and four minutes.
"It feels amazing," said Federer. "I never ever in my wildest dreams thought I'd come this far in Australia. It's beautiful, I'm so happy."
After a tight opener, it was Wawrinka who cracked first. Serving to stay in the first set, the No.4 seed dumped a forehand into the net to surrender the first break of serve. Federer tightened his grip on the match midway through the second set when he broke in the sixth game. With Federer winning 82% of points on his first serve in the second set, 4-2 quickly became 5-2 and although Wawrinka maintained his composure to force Federer to serve it out, the 35-year-old duly obliged and a forehand winner sealed a two-set lead.
Wawrinka disappeared down the tunnel in tears for a medical timeout and returned with strapping to his right knee. Much had been made of Federer’s fitness coming into the tournament after he missed six months of last season to recover from knee surgery, but it was an injury to Wawrinka’s knee that turned the match on its head.
Federer had only lost four times from two sets to love up in his career, but with Wawrinka’s back against the wall Federer was guilty of allowing his level to drop, and he won just 12 points (and committed 12 unforced errors) as he surrendered a double break, and with it the third set in just 26 minutes.
Up an early break in the fourth set, Wawrinka was in full flow, pummelling his groundstrokes and bullying his Davis Cup team-mate behind the baseline. When Federer hauled himself level, it looked like Wawrinka might have missed his chance, but seemingly out of nowhere, he grabbed another break before serving out the set to force a decider.
With the match in the balance, now it was Federer’s turn to disappear off court for treatment with his box looking concerned. Wawrinka was making inroads with his powerful groundstrokes, and Federer twice dodged a bullet, saving two break points to keep his nose in front. But with Wawrinka seemingly on top, two missed chances to break appeared to take its toll mentally.
There was no doubt who the crowd wanted to win, and Rod Laver Arena erupted when Wawrinka double faulted to gift his opponent the all-important final break as the four-time Australian Open champion served out to love to book his place in a sixth final in Melbourne.
"I don't know how many break points I saved, it was tough,” said Federer, who is the lowest-ranked man to reach the Australian Open final since No. 38 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in 2008. “I felt Stan had the upper hand from the baseline in the fifth set. I just knew I had to stay in it somehow and play aggressive.
"I feel like he gave me a bit of a cheap break, but after that I served it home and I couldn't be happier right now. I felt like everything happened so quickly at the end, I had to check the score at the end."