2017 Australian Open Day 11
We’re into the last four, and the narrative of this year’s Australian Open couldn’t have been written better… so far. 2017 Australian Open day 11 saw the Williams sisters turning back the years in the women’s draw, and we’re staring down the barrel of a similar throwback on the men’s side. Once the “Big Two” before Murray and Djokovic came along, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have defied many odds to find themselves in the semi-finals. The prospect of one more Fed/Rafa Grand Slam final has had many-a-mouth watering.
We’re not there yet, however. First, Federer would have to get by fellow Swiss, Stan Wawrinka.
The Swiss Champions
Perhaps more surprising than the fact that Federer finds himself in the semi-finals given his age and lengthy layoff, is the ease with which he has been able to get here. His opening two rounds were scrappy, sure, but as soon as the top players started lining up in front of him, Federer started knocking them down with remarkable efficiency. Dispatching Thomas Berdych in straight sets raised a few eyebrows. His battle with Nishikori may have been a tighter affair, but it never really felt like Nishikori’s game.
After Andy Murray’s unexpected fourth round exit, many considered Wawrinka the favourite to take the title. And even going into this match he was the (very slight) favourite.
Federer had other plans, however.
The first set was fairly comfortable for both players. Both holding serve easy enough, both taking a few points on each other’s serve. Until it wasn’t. With Wawrinka serving to stay in the set and take it to a tiebreaker, he found himself at 30—30. A succesful hawk-eye challenge by Federer brought up set point for the 17 time Grand Slam champion. The next point saw Federer employing a “one more ball” approach that would have made Andy Murray applaud, and he was rewarded when Wawrinka netted a forehand down the line.
The second set was not as competitive. Wawrinka was able to stay with Federer for a few games but the break came earlier this time. At 3—2 to Federer on serve, Wawrinka found himself 15—40 down. He managed to save one of the break points, but not the second as he netted a backhand. Federer remained solid for the rest of the set, closing it out with a comfortable service game to take the second set 6—3.
At this stage Wawrinka looked dejected and beaten, and many were expecting another impressive straight sets victory for the former world number one.
But it wasn’t over yet.
Federer’s level dropped in the third set. Remarkably so. And Wawrinka—a three time Grand Slam champion—did not fail to capitalise. In a set that took barely twenty minutes, Wawrinka powered through to take it 6—1. Federer never really looked in the set, and people tuning in during this set could have been forgiven for thinking that broadcasters had gotten the score wrong!
Wawrinka came out all guns blazing in the fourth set, immediately breaking Federer to make it six games on the bounce. The momentum shifted again in the second game as Federer returned the favour, breaking Stan’ run of games. The game continued on serve until the ninth game. After fighting off an assault on his own serve, Wawrinka got a second break to take the set 6—4 and bring up a deciding fifth set.
The final set started off almost anti-climatically. Both players comfortably held serve for five games, but in the sixth Federer got a break. From the cheer that went up on that break, you’d think Federer had won the tournament. The next three games went with serve and Wawrinka forced Federer to serve the set out. And serve it out he did.
The final score was 7—5, 6—3, 1—6, 4—6, 6—3, and Wawrinka left the court deservedly to a standing ovation from the crowd.
2017 Australian Open day 11 has set the stage for a real throwback final in both the men’s a women’s. The women have done their job, Federer has done his job; can Rafa do his? Or will Grigor Dimitrov have something to say about it?