Switzerland’s Roger Federer hits a return against Germany’s Mischa Zverev during their men’s singles quarter-final match on day nine of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 24, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / SAEED KHAN /
Roger Federer beat giant-killer Mischa Zverev to become the Australian Open’s oldest men’s semi-finalist in nearly 40 years on Tuesday, as fellow veteran Venus Williams also rolled back the years.
The stylish Swiss made light of the challenge posed by German serve-volleyer Zverev, who stunned top seed Andy Murray in the fourth round, to reach a record-extending 41st Grand Slam semi-final.
Federer won 6-1, 7-5, 6-2 in just 92 minutes to set up a last-four clash with his compatriot Stan Wawrinka, who won a bad-tempered quarter-final with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6 (7/2), 6-4, 6-3.
The 35-year-old Federer becomes the tournament’s oldest semi-finalist since Arthur Ashe in 1978, and the oldest at any Grand Slam since Jimmy Connors reached the 1991 US Open last four aged 39.
The draw has opened up invitingly for Federer, a four-time winner in Melbourne, and 2014 champion Wawrinka, as well as fellow thirty-something Rafael Nadal after the exits of Murray and title-holder Novak Djokovic.
“I’m happy for (Wawrinka) that he got this far, but he doesn’t need to go one step further,” Federer joked. “That’s enough.”
Earlier Wawrinka and France’s Tsonga, who have been at odds in the past, argued heatedly at the first-set changeover before the Swiss charged into his third Melbourne semi-final.
“In the semis I play Roger. It’s going to be tough to have some fans but I hope some people will cheer for me,” said Wawrinka, 31.
– ‘I deserve this’ –
In the women’s draw, Williams’ age-defying campaign reached new heights as she beat Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova to become the oldest female Grand Slam semi-finalist in 23 years.
Williams, 36, won 6-4, 7-6 (7/3) to reach the last four without dropping a set and move towards a possible ninth Grand Slam final against her sister Serena, 16 years after their first.
“Why shouldn’t I?” said the seven-time major-winner, who is thriving again after a battle with an autoimmune disorder, when asked if she could win her first major title since 2008.
“I try to believe. Should I look across the net and believe the person across the net deserves it more?
“This mentality is not how champions are made. I’d like to be a champion, in particular this year. The mentality I walk on court with is, ‘I deserve this’.”
Next up for Williams is her hard-hitting, aggressive fellow American Coco Vandeweghe, who stunned French Open champion Garbine Muguruza to reach her first Grand Slam semi-final.
The tall, powerful Vandeweghe smashed 31 winners past the Spaniard and raced through the second set in just 28 minutes to complete a lopsided 6-4, 6-0 upset win.
“It’s amazing to be in a semi-final. But, you know, not satisfying. I want to keep going, keep playing,” said the 35th-ranked Vandeweghe, 25.
“There’s more things to do out on a tennis court that I’m hoping to achieve.”
Muguruza admitted she had been taken by surprise by Vandeweghe, despite her earlier wins over defending champion Angelique Kerber and Eugenie Bouchard.
“I was surprised. I think she played unbelievable. Three times we played in the past, she didn’t show this level,” Muguruza said. “She played very good. Her serve, her shots were there. She barely missed.”