Federer downs Murray, to clash with Nadal in semis

January 23, 2014 - 9:13:47 am

Switzerland’s Roger Federer celebrates his victory in the men’s singles match against Britain’s Andy Murray on day ten of the 2014 Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne, yesterday.

MELBOURNE: Roger Federer’s revival gathered pace as he edged Andy Murray in a late-night dog fight to set up a blockbuster Australian Open semi-final with world No.1 Rafa Nadal who earlier yesterday had rode his luck to beat Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov.

Swiss Federer played sublime tennis to open a two-set lead over Murray but had to withstand a late charge from Briton before claiming a 6-3, 6-4, 6-7(6), 6-3 win in the first “Big Four” clash of the year.

Nadal had dug himself out of a hole to suppress an inspired Dimitrov, winning 3-6, 7-6(3), 7-6(7), 6-2 after his opponent had squandered a golden chance to win the third set.

Victoria Azarenka could only blame herself after she was earlier shown the door 6-1, 5-7, 6-0 by Agnieszka Radwanska to leave the tournament without a defending champion in the last four of either draw for the first time in the professional era.

After ending Azarenka’s hopes of a third straight title, Radwanska will face Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova, who crushed Simona Halep 6-3, 6-0, to decide who meets China’s Li Na or Canadian teenager Genie Bouchard in the final.

With Tomas Berdych meeting Novak Djokovic’s conquerer Stan Wawrinka in the first men’s semi-final today, the winner of the Nadal-Federer clash will like their chances of adding another Grand Slam title to their considerable hauls.

“It’s going to be a good match,” 32-year-old Federer, who had reached only one grand slam semi-final since claiming a 17th major title by beating Murray in the 2012 Wimbledon final, told reporters of tomorrow’s next installment of his Nadal rivalry.

“It’s going to be brutal and all those things. Looking forward to slugging it out with him in a couple of days.”

A free-flowing Federer had looked in total command against Murray until late in the third set when he served for the match at 5-4, having just broken the fourth seed’s serve.

Murray broke back and forced a tiebreak and then hung in doggedly to overturn a 4-6 deficit and force a fourth set.

Federer shrugged off missing his chance, however, keeping his cool through an hour-long fourth set to outlast a tiring Murray and avenge his defeat in the semi-finals here last year.

“I’ve been in these positions before,” Federer, who has reached the semi-final for an 11th straight year at Melbourne Park, said. “For me it was just a matter of staying calm and forgetting about it a little bit.

“The match was great until that point when I couldn’t get it done really.”

Having lost three finals, Murray has endured plenty of heartache in Melbourne but the Wimbledon champion was philosophical in defeat given his recent return to action after back surgery curtailed his 2013.

“I’ve come a long way in four months,” he said. “Obviously right now I’m very disappointed. 

“Wasn’t too far away in the end.”

Thirteen-times Grand Slam champion Nadal’s match with Dimitrov turned on the third set tiebreak and there was enough entertainment in those 16 points alone to justify the ticket prices.

Dimitrov, desperate to shed the “Baby-Fed” tag he acquired because of his stylish game and step out of the shadow of girlfriend Maria Sharapova, had produced some brilliant tennis in his first grand slam quarter-final to take the first set. Struggling to maintain his control over his racket at times because of a painful blister, Nadal almost inevitably battled back to even up the match but Dimitrov was not finished.

The 22-year-old had three chances to go two sets to one up but shanked a return to blow one at 6-5 on Nadal’s serve, blew another in the tiebreak when he went long with a forehand and a third when the Spaniard cut off a volley. “I got lucky,” said Nadal. 

“(But) if that ball, that forehand from him, goes in and he win the third, I going to keep fighting, because I felt that I was ready for the fight.

“I will keep fighting until the end.” 

Radwanska went for broke to snap Azarenka’s 18-match winning streak at Melbourne Park with a thoroughly deserved victory. Reuters

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