This semi-final was going to remain as one of the most important semi-finals of Roger’s career. It would decide if Federer would get to play another major final in the weekend, late in his career. Would he reach the final to play his 28th grand slam final of his career? Would he be able to set up a rematch of the Australian Open final of 2009 on the coming Sunday? Would he be able to withstand the brutal force of Stanislas Wawrinka’s ground strokes? Federer achieved the unthinkable today. He defeated his Swiss compatriot Stan Wawrinka in a 5-set thriller after 3 hours and 4 minutes of high-octane tennis to reach a grand slam final at the age of 35. The match had many twists and turns and it was the old hand Federer who broke the Wawrinka serve at 2-3 in the fifth set and took the match 7-5 6-3 1-6 4-6 6-3. What an epic constest it was to witness!
The semi-final: A rollercoaster ride!
Federer won the first two sets playing clutch tennis whenever it mattered. In those sets, Federer converted 73% of his first serve points and 69% of his second serve points. He won 69% of his net points. And, there were 29 occasions when Roger went to the net in the first two sets. His strategy had been one that involved going to the net often.
Wawrinka came back roaring immediately in the third set breaking Roger’s serve twice to take the third set 6-1. In this set, Wawrinka lost only 5 points on his serve and won 53% of his return points.
The fourth set was dramatic and kept the spectators on the edge of their seats. Wawrinka broke in the first game but Federer broke his serve in the very next game. In that second game, Federer was able to hit a charismatic backhand pass after retrieving the ball few times times on that point. Federer played some inspiring tennis in the 8th game of the set but Wawrinka would do well enough to hold his serve. Wawrinka marvelously broke Federer’s serve in the next game. He hit a return ace when Roger served to the deuce court at 0-30 with his forehand. It proved to be the vital point of the fourth set. He broke Roger’s serve in that game with a forehand pass. He held the next game to love to take the match to a decider.
The last set was nail-biting. The two multi-slam winners with their nerves of steel played some breathtaking tennis early on. Federer serving at 1-1 made some grave mistakes to give Wawrinka a break point opportunity which he later saved by playing some gutsy tennis with his “liquid whip” forehand. He held that game. In the next game, Roger went up 0-30 on the Wawrinka serve. But, Stan quickly hit an ace by making a service that swung away from the opponent. He would win the next 3 points too to hold serve. In the next game, Stan squandered another break point. Roger then broke in the 6th game to go up 4-2. He won the set 6-3 and the match.
To be fair to Stan, he had the better winner/unforced error ratio in the match (1.5) than Federer (0.94). That’s drastic I know. But, Roger had a better break point conversion rate (44%) than Stan (33%). He attacked Stan’s forehand on his first serves as he directed 52% of his first serves to his forehand. And, interestingly, Stan had problems returning Roger’s serves.
Today’s match will be remembered as one of the days when Roger was not quite playing his best game but still managed to get the task done. Wawrinka should be proud of the way he tussled. He showed heart to clear the 2-set deficit and to take the match into a decider. Roger showed the brilliance to transcend the final finish line. It has been a fairytale for the Swiss so far and this win takes him to the final of Australian Open for the 6th time in his career. It will be his 28th grand slam final.
Federer showed no particular preference regarding who his opponent could be in the final. He is pleased to have given himself a chance to win on Sunday.
“At the end it matters if you win or not. I am in the finals, I know that. And, I know I will have a chance to win on Sunday now. And, that’s a great position to be in regardless of who it’s going to be against. ”
“All I care about is that I can win on Sunday doesn’t matter who is across the net but I understand the magnitude of the match against Nadal. No doubt about it.”
For Federer, this will be his first slam final since US Open in 2015 and his first Australian Open final in 7 years. This presents a very good chance of witnessing another Fedal grand slam final. So, if Rafa wins his semi-final against Grigor Dimitrov we will see a rematch of the Australian Open 2009 final. So are you ready to witness another historical battle between the two greatest legends of the sport?
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