Preview: Roger Federer will attempt to reach his first Grand Slam final since 2015 at the Australian Open on Thursday, while Serena and Venus Williams are both gunning for the women's title match.
Federer's major-winning days seemed over after first Novak Djokovic and then Andy Murray emerged at the top of the pecking order, but the Swiss legend, 35, has surprised everyone with his run to the semis.
With Djokovic and Murray long gone, fellow Swiss Stan Wawrinka is blocking Federer's path to Sunday's title match, where he intends to become the oldest major finalist since a 39-year-old Ken Rosewall at the 1974 US Open.
Roger Federer hits a shot at the Australian Open. Reuters
Federer, who last contested a major final at the 2015 US Open, has a 5-1 record against Wawrinka at Grand Slam tournaments but he is yet to lose in 13 meetings on hard courts, conceding only four sets.
However, the hard-hitting Wawrinka -- the Swiss number one, with Federer's ranking at 17 after six months off with injury -- will not roll over for his illustrious countryman as he looks for his fourth major title.
"For sure, against Roger, it's always special because he's so good. He's the best player of all time. He has an answer for everything," said Wawrinka, 31.
"But I have managed to beat him in a Grand Slam, so we'll see. Most important is that I step on the court and I play my best tennis."
Despite Wawrinka's breakthrough 2014 Grand Slam title in Melbourne, Federer will be the crowd's sentimental favourite as he presses his claims for a record-extending 18th major crown.
"If someone would have told me I'd play in the semis against Stan, never would I have called that one for me. For Stan, yes, but not for me," Federer said.
Federer also has the prize of a potential final against his old rival Rafael Nadal, who will play Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov in the other men's semi-final on Friday.
Thursday's all-Swiss semi will follow Venus Williams' match with hard-hitting fellow American Coco Vandeweghe, and Serena Williams against miraculous former prodigy Mirjana Lucic Baroni.
The Croatian reached her last major semi-final at Wimbledon in 1999, when she was 17, but lost most of her career to personal trauma after being forced to flee an abusive father.
She was in floods of tears and described the feeling as "pure ecstasy" after upsetting Karolina Pliskova in three sets to reach the semi-finals.
"I will never forget this day and the last couple of weeks. This has truly made my life, and everything bad that happened, (it) has made it okay," the 34-year-old said.
Serena, who last played Lucic-Baroni at 1998 Wimbledon, when they were both 16, applauded the Croatian but she will have no room for sentimentality when they play on Thursday.
Serena is seeking an Open-era record 23rd major title and a return to world number one -- accolades she will want to achieve with her sister on the other side of the net.
Published Date: Jan 26, 2017 18:00 PM
| Updated Date: Jan 26, 2017 18:07 PM