Federer into last four again
Had Tomas Berdych managed to win the first set against Roger Federer, this contest may have ended very differently.
Opportunity knocked loud and clear for the Czech in the opener, but he saw a 5-2 lead and two set points disappear, and in the blink of an eye he was on the wrong end of a 7-6(1), 6-3, 6-4 scoreline.
The No.19 seed came into the match in great form, and was striking the ball extremely cleanly during the opening exchanges, taking the game to Federer with repeated success.
But the crucial juncture came with Berdych serving at 5-3. Federer went on the attack, generating two break points at 15-40. On the first, Berdych hit a big first serve onto the line. Or was it? The Swiss challenged, but the Hawk-eye graphics failed to reach the Rod Laver Arena screens.
Umpire Fergus Murphy had the unenviable task of informing Federer that ball was in fact in, and the Swiss was understandably riled, engaging in an agitated conversation with Murphy.
As if that wasn’t irritating enough, Berdych then saved the second break point with a drop shot that tickled the net cord and dropped dead on Federer’s side. The next act in this drama-filled game was a set point for Berdych, which Federer saved with a return winner.
Then, using his racket to vent his frustrations, the Swiss stepped things up, playing two perfectly constructed points to finally the break.
After two quick holds for both, Federer came under pressure again at 5-6, facing a set point at 30-40. The duo became locked in an extended rally, with Berdych eventually cracking and overcooking a backhand. Another escape.
Maybe feeling like he’d used up all of his get-out-of-jail-free cards, Federer excelled in the tie-break, pulling Berdych from pillar to post to claim it 7-1.
And that, really, was that. Berdych had played almost as well as he could in the first set, but having been pulled back from the brink of a one set lead, he couldn’t replicate that level, while Federer pulled away to reach his 14th Australian Open semi-final.
“I had to get a bit lucky, a bit angry, a bit frustrated maybe, at the umpire,” Federer said when asked how he turned the first set around.
“I actually thought the call was good anyway. Probably he was right taking the call away, it's all good, I was just getting a bit frustrated!"
Awaiting Federer in the semi-finals is a first career meeting with Hyeon Chung, who made the last four by beating Tennys Sandgren earlier on in the afternoon.