Roger Federer held off a furious comeback by Swiss compatriot Stan Wawrinka on Thursday night at the Australian Open, winning in five sets 7-5, 6-3, 1-6, 4-6, 6-3 to become the first player into the 2017 final in Melbourne.
He awaits either Rafael Nadal or Grigor Dimitrov, who will play Friday night.
“I couldn’t be happier right now,” said Federer. “I felt like everything happened so quickly at the end, I had to check the score. I never ever in my wildest dreams thought I’d come this far in Australia. It’s beautiful, I’m so happy.”
It is the sixth career Australian Open final for the 17-time Grand Slam champion, who has never lost to Wawrinka on hardcourt.
Federer has won four times in Melbourne in his career, most recently in 2010. Wawrinka won the Aussie Open title in 2014.
Wawrinka gave away the first set late with unforced errors, and at 2-3 in the second broke a racquet when the unforced errors crept back in, appearing to battle tears after losing the second set. In the third set, after a medical time-out to strap below his right knee, Wawrinka’s movement seemed hindered but it appeared to get into Federer’s head as the former No. 1’s intensity dropped and he lost six straight games and the third set. Wawrinka’s vastly-improved movement in the fourth brought him back in the match, breaking at 4-4 with a stunning running crosscourt winner. The fifth set turned when Wawrinka dropped serve at 2-3 and Federer closed it out for his 99th match win at the Australian Open.
Federer after losing the fourth set had his own injury time-out.
“I have had a leg thing going on for a week and felt it from the second game on in the match,” he said. “If you go off the court, that means the treatment is further up the leg. I never take injury timeouts. Stan took his, so I thought people won’t be mad — Stan won’t be mad hopefully. You hope something works, and that the physio has some magic hands going on.”
Federer improved to 19-3 career against Wawrinka.
The 35-year-old Swiss is 5-0 career against Dimitrov and 11-23 against Nadal.
“Rafa has presented me with the biggest challenge in the game,” Federer said. “I’m his No. 1 fan. His game is tremendous. He’s an incredible competitor. I’m happy we had some epic battles over the years and of course it would be unreal to play here. I think both of us would never have thought we would be here playing in the final.”
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