Four-time Australian Open champion Roger Federer has survived a mid-match scare to grind out a place in the Australian Open final over Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka 7-5, 6-3, 1-6, 4-6, 6-3.
“In the fifth, I just knew I had to find my energy again… play with intensity, play more aggressive, take the ball early, believe in myself, serve good, try not to get in too many tough moments early on, which then I did,” Federer told reporters.
“It was an awkward match, always against Stan, it was always never going to be easy.
“Especially how the third and fourth set went by, I needed to react really, because he had the upper hand from the baseline.”
It was a game of inches in the early match, where the smallest mistake became a costly error. Wawrinka gave the first set to Federer with a soft volley into the net, with the four-time Australian Open champion easily taking the second.
A medical timeout during the set break was just what the doctor ordered with Wawrinka taking three service games off Federer, allowing the world no. 17 just 12 points in the third set. That formed continued in the fourth, sending it to a thrilling decider.
“I’m really sad and disappointed with a loss like that because to be that close to have won a semifinal, it can be only sad,” Wawrinka told reporters after describing the missed backhand at 3-2 because Federer did something unexpected, becoming less aggressive on a higher backhand shot.
“But at the end I know I tried everything on the court.
“I came from two sets down, I changed completely the momentum, I started to be extra aggressive because I had to change few things also physically, so I change my game with that.”
Federer too took a rare off-court medical timeout in the set-break to treat an upper leg injury that didn’t make it better, managing to shift the momentum away from Wawrinka.
“I think these injury timeouts, I think they’re more mental than anything else. Normally you would have to do it on court, (but) if you do groin or something like that, or a tape way up there, you have to go off court,” Federer said.
“For the first time maybe during a match you can actually talk to someone, even if it’s just a physio. We know him well.
“It maybe relaxed Stan… just to be able to talk about I don’t know what, the same thing for me as well.
“You start chatting about it, how good or bad the leg is, how you hope it’s going to turn around. That can leave a positive effect on you when you come back.”
After saving two early break points, Federer climbed out from the whole he was in, took a break point off Wawrinka’s double fault to go 4-2, saved his serve at 5-2 to eventually take the win.
The world now awaits tomorrow night’s men’s second semifinal where Spaniard Rafael Nadal and Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov will do battle for the final. Should Nadal win, it will mark an amazing return to form for both former Australian Open champions who were sidelined for injuries in the latter half of 2016.
Federer believes he has a better chance against Dimitrov than Nadal “but who cares” as Sunday will certainly be “special either way” with one going for a maiden grand slam victory, or an epic battle for the ages.
“All I care about is that I can win on Sunday, (it) doesn’t matter who’s across the net,” said Federer.
“But I understand the magnitude of the match against Nadal, no doubt about it.”