Federer eases past Wawrinka into semi-finals

In modern tennis terms he is approaching veteran status but there is no sign that Roger Federer has any intention of slowing down.

At 29 years and five months he is the oldest man left in the men’s draw here at the Australian Open and he will be the oldest player to win a Grand Slam title for eight years if he successfully defends his crown in Rod Laver Arena on Sunday.

The latest player to learn that Federer has no plans to reach for his pipe and slippers quite yet was his friend and fellow Swiss, Stanislas Wawrinka, who had not dropped a set in his first four rounds here and was unbeaten this year. The world No 19 went into their quarter-final meeting here today with one win over the world No 2 under his belt – even if it had been achieved while Federer was on his honeymoon in Monte-Carlo two years ago – but from the moment he dropped serve in his opening game a repeat never looked on the cards.

Federer needed only an hour and 47 minutes to beat his Davis Cup colleague 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 in his 27th consecutive Grand Slam quarter-final, which equalled the record set by Jimmy Connors. Wawrinka played well below his best and Federer’s post-match verdict - “The scoreline suggests maybe it was easier than it looked like - I thought it was a pretty tough match” – sounded like an attempt to cover up for his friend’s disappointing display. In the semi-finals Federer will meet the winner of today’s later match between Novak Djokovic and Tomas Berdych.

Putting 77 per cent of his first serves in court, Federer gave Wawrinka only one sniff of a break, midway through the second set. The defending champion promptly won three points in a row to take the game and Wawrinka never threatened again. Federer had seven break points of his own and took five of them.

Early in the third set a frustrated Wawrinka was given a code violation after smashing his racket to the floor, shattering the frame. Even his backhand, which is usually his biggest weapon, let him down. The last two points summed up his day as he missed two successive cross-court backhands.

It was the first Grand Slam quarter-final contested by two Swiss men. Federer and Wawrinka have played doubles for their country in the Davis Cup and won Olympic gold together in Beijing three years ago, after which they performed one of the more bizarre sporting celebrations. As Wawrinka lay on the floor, Federer pretended to warm his hands as if over a log fire, indicating how hot his partner’s form had been.

Wawrinka has enjoyed one of the best periods of his career over the last six months. He reached his first Grand Slam quarter-final at last year’s US Open, where he knocked out Andy Murray, and went into today’s contest on a nine-match winning streak, having won the tournament in Chennai on his way to Australia.

Nevertheless, anything Wawrinka can do his more celebrated fellow countryman can do better. Federer is now unbeaten in his last 15 matches, having followed up his victory at the season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London in November by winning his first tournament of the year in Doha. The last time he won the Qatar Open, in 2006, Federer went on to life the title here.

“I think it was a good match for me,” Federer said after today’s win. “I was able to serve and return really well. Last time I played him he was really able to get the free points he was also getting in his matches [here] against Monfils and against Roddick. I expected him to serve even bigger today because the ball travels faster through the air. For some reason I was able to return well against him. On my own service games I was really good too. I think that really set the tone for a good match for me.”

Federer acknowledged that the match would have been a big challenge for Wawrinka. “I've been in so many quarter-finals, in this situation so many times before, that I have the experience and I have the game to be tricky for him,” he said. “Once the first set goes quickly then he's a bit under pressure there. He actually played a good second set. He had the first chance to make the break. Then he doesn't make it. The next thing you know, I get it. It's two sets to love. It wasn't an easy match for him.”

Wawrinka's verdict was succinct: "He was just playing too good."

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