Roger Federer reaches record 14th Australian Open semi-final with win over Tomas Berdych

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Defending champion Roger Federer swept into a record 14th Australian Open semi-final with a commanding straight sets win over long-time rival Tomas Berdych on Wednesday.

The second seed cruised to a 7-6 (1), 6-3, 6-4 win in 2hr 14min on Rod Laver Arena and will face unseeded South Korean Chung Hyeon on Friday for a place in the final.

The 19-time Grand Slam champion, who hasn’t lost in five matches against Berdych in Melbourne, will play in his 43rd Grand Slam semi-final, a record for the post-1968 Open Era.

The Swiss legend has yet to face Chung, who has got past six-time champion Novak Djokovic and world No. 4 Alexander Zverev to get to the last four.

Federer’s latest victory was his 92nd in 105 matches in Melbourne to make the Australian Open his most successful Grand Slam in terms of matches won.

“I’m happy I got out of the first set. It ended up being the key of the match,” he said.

“I just tried to hang around, tried to play a bit more aggressive, get some rhythm going, because Tomas found that early.

“That’s why I was under pressure. It was definitely very close, the turning point, and it ended up being for the entire match.
“I played a great breaker. Got off to a good start there. But coming back from 5-2 in the first set, it was clearly big tonight.”

Federer has now won 14 out of 14 quarter-finals in Melbourne and has yet to drop a set in this year’s tournament.

Looking ahead to his semi-final opponent Chung, Federer said: “He’s incredibly impressive in his movement, he reminds me a lot of Novak the way he is able to slide forehand and backhand and use the hard-court as a clay-court.

“He gets balls back and stays aggressive in defence, so I’m really excited to be playing him, he’s got nothing to lose, I will tell myself the same and we’ll see what happens.”

SIGNATURE BACKHAND

Federer was broken in his opening service game and fell behind 2-5 before he broke back with a backhand in the ninth game to send the first set into a tiebreaker.

He put the foot down and careered to five set points before taking the tiebreaker with an audacious drop shot.
He continued to put the squeeze on the Czech and broke him in the eighth game and served out for a two sets to love lead after 90 minutes.

Both players exchanged breaks early in the third set before Federer reeled off a signature backhand winner to break again in the fifth game.

He consummately served out for the match for his 20th win in 26 meetings with Berdych.

“I had a good chances, a couple of set points,” Berdych said. “Then he just got more confident after he saved the first set. Then it was very difficult with him again.”

Federer is coming off an extraordinary 2017, when he won a fifth Australian Open title and a record eighth at Wimbledon, after returning from an injury lay-off.

The 36-year-old is bidding to win his 20th Grand Slam title and is the oldest man to reach the semi-finals in Australia since Ken Rosewall (42 years) in 1977.

It was in Melbourne a year ago where he lit the fuse on his late-life tennis renaissance, beating Berdych, Kei Nishikori, Mischa Zverev and Stan Wawrinka before downing great rival Rafael Nadal in a five-set final classic.​

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Karolina Pliskova calls for cancellation of late night matches at the Australian Open

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Dejected sixth seed Karolina Pliskova said Australian Open organisers should do away with late-night/early morning matches after crashing out in the quarter-finals on Wednesday.

Pliskova was trampled 6-3, 6-2 by world number one Simona Halep in a match that started just before 4:00 pm Wednesday.

She complained about her fourth-round match with fellow Czech Barbora Strycova.

That had started with dwindling spectator numbers at around 11:00 pm Monday and stretched to three sets and 2hr 41min until nearly 2:00 am Tuesday.

“I think just these late night matches they should cancel,” Pliskova told reporters after her 71-minute drubbing on Rod Laver Arena Wednesday.

“I went to sleep at seven in the morning yesterday,” lamented the world number six.

By then her quarter-final opponent Halep had been tucked up in bed all night, having played her match against Naomi Osaka in the afternoon.

“I put alarm at 12 (noon), just to try to have a normal day,” Pliskova said.

“I went to hit. Overall after was fine. But still it changed a little bit. Today was a day match. It’s completely different. Every match for me was different.”

This year had already seen a new record for the latest start to a match at the Australian Open when Daria Gavrilova’s second-round match against Elise Mertens began 11:59 pm.

Pliskova’s three-setter, however, finished early compared to the all-time record.

The latest end to a match at any Grand Slam was at Melbourne Park in 2008 when Lleyton Hewitt and Marcos Baghdatis finished a five-setter at 4:33 am.

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Simona Halep expecting 'marathon' semi-final against Angelique Kerber after blitzing Karolina Pliskova

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World number one Simona Halep expects a “marathon” in her Australian Open semi-final against Angelique Kerber after blitzing sixth seed Karolina Pliskova in their Australian Open quarter-final on Wednesday.

The Romanian overcame a shaky start to reel off nine games in a row and 12 of the last 14 games to recover from 0-3 en route to a 6-3, 6-2 victory on Rod Laver Arena.

The match was over in 71 minutes – a stark contrast to her third-round victory over Lauren Davis of the US.

That lasted 3hr 44min with Halep winning 15-13 in the final set after saving three match points.

“For sure is going to be a second marathon this tournament,” said Halep looking ahead to the semi.

She has played the German 2016 Australian Open champion eight times with the series level at 4-4.

“But I’m used to that. I know her pretty well. She likes it here. But I started to like this tournament, after two years in a row losing in the first round,” added Halep, who is in the last four at Melbourne Park for the first time.

The Romanian had taken three sets to beat Pliskova in their previous meeting, a semi-final at Roland Garros last year, and started shakily, struggling to time her serve or groundstrokes.

But once she saved a break point at 0-3 to get on the scoreboard, her confidence grew against an opponent who has never gone beyond the last eight in Melbourne.

“For sure it wasn’t my best start but I knew I had to restart after three games to stop missing and move better,” said Halep, whose relentless chasing and powerful groundstrokes overwhelmed her taller, tattooed opponent.

“I started to open the court and play my style, and I served well today. Everything went pretty much my way.”

She added that she was more confident about the injured ankle she has nursed throughout the tournament.

“I was just worried about how is going to be the next day, the ankle,” she said. “But was pretty strong. After this I will take care better of it.”

Pliskova was the top-rated server on the WTA Tour in 2017 but it took her until the sixth game of the second set to record her first ace.

“My serve is not that effective on her,” said the world number six, who has never got past the quarter-final stage in a Grand Slam.

“She returns pretty well. She’s strong on the backhand side. I try to play fast, but I think she likes this. She just use my speed. Then in the end, I’m the one who is running.”

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