Roger Federer produced near-vintage tennis to beat Mischa Zverev in straight sets on day nine and turn speculation into serious conjecture that the 35-year-old Swiss, who is returning to the Tour after six months out injured, can win his fifth Australian Open.
In a night match that finished before it was even dark, he became the oldest player since the 39-year-old Jimmy Connors in 1991 to reach the semi-finals of a slam, and fewer sceptics are saying he can’t go all the way after a 6-1, 7-5, 6-2 victory over the German left-hander that delighted his fans and sent a ripple of apprehension through the locker room.
He will have to get past his compatriot Stan Wawrinka in their 22nd contest in the semi-finals on Thursday to give himself a chance, but he is amazing everyone here with the standard of his tennis. He arrived with a ranking that had dipped to 17 after his enforced absence but in nearly every match has looked like the Federer who won the last of his 17 slams in 2012.
Federer said of his opponent Zverev, whom he double-bagelled in Halle four years ago, “I thought he played an incredible tournament, beating [John] Isner and Andy [Murray]. I was so happy for him. He’s gone through some tough times with injuries. I used to like those days when they come in a bit more. It makes for a lot of passing shots, super competitive. A baseline slugfest is OK too. We’ll probably get some of that in the next match.”
Federer hit an almost absurd 65 winners and just 13 unforced errors in an hour-and-a-half on the Rod Laver Arena, dominating the world No50 the way the world No1 Murray failed to do in the fourth round on Sunday. Three times in the third set – twice in the longest game of the match, the seventh – he charged the net on Zverev’s second serve, and broke to set up the kill.
Zverev grabbed a break point in the eighth game, but there was little he could do about the closing forehand, ripped at an angle across the court, to the joy of the crazily cheering crowd.
Earlier, Wawrinka beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6 (7-2), 6-4, 6-3. The little-discussed world No4, who struggled through five sets against the unseeded Martin Klizan in the first round and has steadily improved since, said: “I think today was my best match of the tournament,” said Wawrinka. He will need to be as good as he was against Novak Djokovic in the final of the US Open to beat this version of Federer, though.
*Culled From The Guardian: