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Roger Federer one step closer to his 18th grand slam

By Tom Allnutt

Roger Federer did what Andy Murray could not and beat Mischa Zverev to reach his 41st grand slam semi-final at the Australian Open.

Zverev has turned back the clock with his serve and volley tactics in Melbourne but the biggest throwback may be yet to come as Federer moved one step closer to an 18th grand slam title.

The 35-year-old, whose last major triumph came at Wimbledon in 2012, cruised to a 6-1 7-5 6-2 victory and now faces Stan Wawrinka in an all-Swiss showdown for a place in Sunday's final.

Zverev, ranked 50th in the world, bamboozled Murray with his old-school serve and volley tactics but perhaps the surprise factor had been lost because Federer never looked rattled.

Instead, he hit 65 winners and broke six times, with Zverev managing to win only 44 of his 90 forays to the net..

"I used to like those days when they came in a bit but not so much now," Federer said on court afterwards.

"The game has changed, courts are slower, balls are slower, I had to adapt my game to a different style. I enjoy that, baseline slug-fests are okay too. We'll probably get some of them next match."

Wawrinka certainly represents a formidable challenge, the US Open champion and arguably most dangerous player left in the draw given he has won three grand slams in as many years.

The 31-year-old, however, has often struggled to find his best against Federer, his friend and mentor, with whom he won the Davis Cup in 2014.

"He's a clutch player now," Federer said of his next opponent. "At the US Open he proved it again, he's won a slam for the last three years.

"At Davis Cup, when it was important he was right there for me, for us, for Switzerland."

Federer added with a smile: "I'm happy for him to have gotten this far but he doesn't need to go one step further."

Wawrinka (right) often grows into a tournament, vulnerable in the early rounds but, as Novak Djokovic found to his cost in Flushing Meadows, unstoppable when the finishing line is in sight. Federer, however, is also gathering momentum after only just returning from six months out with injury.

"My expectation was not to be playing Stan in the semis," Federer said. "I thought I was maybe going to win a few rounds, fourth round, quarters, that was my expectation if the draw was okay.

"That was before the draw -people were talking about the dream draw but I was like, 'what am I missing? I'm not seeing the dream draw at all'.

"I never thought it would be this good but here I am standing with Stan at the semis, which couldn't be cooler for the both of us."

Wawrinka had earlier seen off France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6 (7/2) 6-4 6-3 in a frosty encounter that included a terse exchange of views at the end of the first set.

The players had just taken their seats when they became involved in a heated discussion. Wawrinka was heard saying: "Did I look at you at all? It's a tennis match. You've got to calm down, relax a bit, it's a tennis match."

Neither player wanted to elaborate but Wawrinka admitted: "You can have some tension during the match between players. Sometimes it can happen."

On facing Federer, Wawrinka added: "When I step on the court, it's always something special because he's the best player because of everything he's done in his career, because he's Swiss, because he's a really close friend, because of everything we've been together, Davis Cup, Olympics.

"It's always something special. Most important is that I try as much as I can to focus on myself, that I try to find a way how to win the match."

Meanwhile, Great Britain are set to be without Andy Murray for their Davis Cup clash with Canada after he was not named in the initial four-man team.

Captain Leon Smith has not ruled out adding the world number one should he change his mind about playing in the World Group first round tie in Ottawa, starting on February 3.

"We will continue to speak with Andy regarding his potential involvement and if he decides he would like to be part of the team then we can change the nominations as necessary," said Smith.

Belfast Telegraph

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