Roger Federer says he had to check scoreboard was real after reaching Australian Open final
35-year-old comes through five-set classic against Stan Wawrinka to continue improbable march in Melbourne after not playing for six months
Roger Federer held firm against a furious Stan Wawrinka fightback to edge his fellow Swiss 7-5, 6-3, 1-6, 4-6, 6-3 and reach the final of the Australian Open.
On the same day the Williams sisters booked their place in the women’s final, 35-year-old Federer continued the march of the veterans, becoming the oldest man to reach a grand slam final in nearly 40 years.
The Swiss master was rattled as fourth seed Wawrinka rose up to level the match but his opponent double-faulted to hand Federer the decisive break in the sixth game.
Federer served out an instant Melbourne Park classic to love, setting up a chance for his 18th grand slam title against Rafa Nadal or Grigor Dimitrov.
“I was in disbelief,” Federer said on court. “I had to check the score after the match was over. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I would come this far.”
The Swiss will become the oldest men’s grand slam finalist since Ken Rosewall featured in the US Open in 1974 at the age of 39.
“It’s all real, I never thought in my wildest dreams I would come this far in Australia,” a glowing Federer said in his courtside interview, having come to Australia with no expectations after six months out of the game. “I’ve got a couple of days off. It’s beautiful.
“I’m probably [Nadal’s] number one fan.
“I’m happy we’ve had some epic battles over the years.”
Federer had to close out the win with an upper leg injury and thanked the court’s physio for his “magic hands”.
But he moved superbly to deny his close friend Wawrinka a chance at a fourth grand slam title.
Friendship was shelved before the match, however, and Wawrinka kept the doyen of men’s tennis waiting before they walked silently to centre court.
It was a slow-burning start to their seventh grand slam encounter, but it sparked into life in a marathon fourth game as Wawrinka saved a trio of break points to grimly hold serve.
There were moments of magic, a regal Federer drop shot sliced high into the air from the baseline just cleared the net to flummox Wawrinka at 3-2.
Federer swapped wands, grabbing a fresh racket after new balls were called and wielded it to devastating effect in the 12th game, breaking Wawrinka’s serve to take the set when he hammered a forehand into the net.
Broken again to trail 4-2, Wawrinka lost the second set in just 31 minutes and hammered his racket into the court.
The barrel-chested Swiss decided to complete the job properly, snapping his racket in half over his knee.
His other knee had been bothering him before the match and he returned to the court with it strapped.
With new racket in hand, he began swinging with abandon and his peerless backhand began to sing.
A searing passing shot broke Federer’s serve in the fourth game and Wawrinka roared through the set in a furious salvo of power hitting.
Another smoking backhand passing shot smashed through Federer’s serve, and the Swiss lost a sixth straight game.
Wawrinka fired a string of huge serves to put the match on level terms and pounded his chest twice in a muted celebration.
Trading backhand blows like heavyweight boxers, the pair pounded away at each other in the fifth before Wawrinka’s serve crumbled.
The decisive double-fault sparked raucous cheers from the pro-Federer crowd and Federer roared to the finish, savouring the chance to add to his four Melbourne Park titles.