Roger Federer is back where he belongs – in the final of a Grand Slam. The 35-year-old beat younger compatriot Stan Wawrinka 7-5 6-3 1-6 4-6 6-3 on Thursday to reach the summit clash of the Australian Open where he awaits the winner of the Rafa Nadal-Grigor Dimitrov semifinal match.
The last time he reached a Major final was in 2015 at Flushing Meadows. The last time Roger Federer won one was at Wimbledon in 2012. If he wins on Sunday, Federer will pocket his fifth Norman Brookes Challenge Cup, the first time since 2010.
Federer and Wawrinka began their 22 nd meeting with great ferocity. Unforced errors cropped up of course but both men stuck to their guns. The first set went on serve with exceptional rallies. At 5-5, game point up, the elder Swiss stopped the point mid-rally to call Wawrinka’s return out. It’s rare for the 17-time Grand Slam champion to get his calls wrong and before Hawk Eye could confirm Roger Federer’s query, Wawrinka simply walked off.
That was the hold Federer needed to keep his momentum going. In the next game at 30-30, Wawrinka mistimed his backhand down the line and gave Federer his first break point. After another backhand error that hit the net, Federer swooped in joy as he won the first set 7-5 as the fans applauded.
Roger Federer wasn’t going to let go of the momentum. He quickly broke Wawrinka to go up 4-2 in the second. Wawrinka has a temper and even picked up a code violation for racquet abuse after the classic Stan racquet break – a snap over the knee.
At 5-3, Federer did what he does best – serve out the set at 6-3. For the first time in 16 long months, he was six games away from his first Major final. It must be mentioned that Federer was forcing Wawrinka to make a lot of forced errors. He had almost made double of Federer’s in the set.
But one can never write off Wawrinka. He has won at least one Grand Slam every year over the last three years. Before Federer could even fathom what was happening, he had befuddled his older compatriot with exceptional backhand winners and had unloaded gigantic forehands from his arsenal to wrap up the third set 6-1 in his favour.
It was make or break time for Federer. From spending almost six months out with injury and subsequent surgery, his timing of the ball had not taken a hit. Every winner had the fans gasping with excitement. However, at 4-4 he needed to hold serve.
Unfortunately, Wawrinka had other plans. He raced to a 0-40 lead passing Federer at the net several times. He did make two unforced errors giving Federer a chance to come back. But it wasn’t to be. Wawrinka took the crucial break to go up 5-4 and served out the set in the next game at love. It was surprising to see Federer take a medical time out but at such a crucial juncture, it was a welcome breather for both men on court and the fans!
It all boiled down to the decider which had all at the Rod Laver Arena gasping for breath. It went on serve till the fifth game until Federer broke the famous Wawrinka serve to go up 4-2 after the 31-year-old made a rare double fault. It was a sloppy game and Federer took the opportunity.
Roger Federer held serve and raced to a 5-2 lead. Wawrinka broke back but it wasn’t enough. Federer served out to reach the Australian Open final as Wawrinka hit the return of serve wide. It was time for Federer fans worldwide to rejoice!