Four-time former champion Roger Federer set up a blockbuster semi-final at the Australian Open against 2014 titlist and fellow Swiss Stan Wawrinka on Tuesday night.
Federer, the No. 17 seed, ended the dream run of Andy Murray’s conqueror, Mischa Zverev, 6-1, 7-5, 6-2 at Melbourne Park for a place in his 41st Grand Slam championship semi-final (and his 13th at the Australian Open).
“I'm pleased with the way I started the match,” said Federer. “Right away, again, I got off to a great start against him, as I did against him a few years ago. After that, naturally everything's easier. The second set was definitely a key to shut it down for him. It was good that I was able to break back after he played a good game there. Then in the third set, I think, I was rolling. It was a nice match. I think I played great. Mischa had a wonderful tournament, so well done to him.”
The 35-year-old Federer leads Wawrinka, the fourth seed, 18-3 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series. Pete Sampras, who won the final match of his career in the 2002 US Open final, was the last No. 17 seed to capture a major title.
"If someone would have told me I'd play in the semis against Stan, never would I have called that," said Federer, who returned from a six-month injury lay-off at the start of 2017. "For Stan, yes, but not for me. I honestly didn't even know a few days ago that he was in my section of the draw or I'm in his section. I figured it out eventually that he was playing on my days, but I never really looked in that quarter of the draw because that was just too unrealistic for me.”
Federer took advantage of early nerves for 29-year-old Zverev by winning the first five games – and losing seven points. The first set lasted 20 minutes.
World No. 50 Zverev regrouped and covered the net to keep Federer on the back foot, but, ultimately, was left to rue a missed volley that could have edged him closer to a 4-1 lead. The doubts started to set in and Federer sensed his opportunity, fighting back to break to love for a 6-5 lead.
Zverev kept battling, but his resistance faltered in the fifth game and a 26-point seventh game of the third set. Federer hit 65 winners overall, committing just 13 unforced errors in the one-hour and 32-minute encounter.
“I think he did not really let me play,” said Zverev. “It's more like his shots were a little bit different than Andy's (Murray). It was definitely hard to read where he was going, where he's returning. He just has so many more options. How he can, like, outplay me or pass me. It was different, definitely different.”
Federer is the oldest player to reach a Grand Slam semi-final since Jimmy Connors (39 years, six days) reached the last four at the 1991 US Open. Federer is now 85-13 at the Australian Open – the most match wins he has amassed at any of the four majors.
Wawrinka beat French No. 12 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in straight sets earlier in the day.