MELBOURNE • Roger Federer is just one step away from his first tennis Grand Slam final in 18 months after he demolished giant-killer Mischa Zverev yesterday to set up an Australian Open semi-final with Stan Wawrinka.
The Swiss, considered past his prime after an injury-ruined 2016, rolled back the years with a masterful 6-1, 7-5, 6-2 win in just 92 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.
The four-time champion, 35, will next take on his Davis Cup team-mate and world No. 4 Wawrinka, 31, in what promises to be an enthralling semi-final showdown.
Federer, to his surprise, has now won five matches in his comeback from a six-month injury break, with hopes rising of a record-extending 18th Grand Slam title in Melbourne.
"I felt I was always going to be dangerous on any given day in a match situation. But obviously as the tournament would progress, maybe I would fade away with energy," he said.
"I think now that I'm in the semis, feeling as good as I am, playing as good as I am, that's a huge surprise to me. If someone would have told me I'd play in the semis against Stan, never would I have called that one for me. For Stan, yes, but not for me."
DAY 9 RESULTS
Stan Wawrinka (Sui) bt Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (Fra) 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 6-3, Roger Federer (Sui) bt Mischa Zverev (Ger) 6-1 7-5 6-2.
Venus Williams (USA) bt Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (Rus) 6-4 7-6 (7-3), Coco Vandeweghe (USA) bt Garbine Muguruza (Esp) 6-4 6-0.
It will be the legend's record 13th Australian semi-final appearance and 41st Grand Slam semi-final.
It was a dominant performance from Federer, hitting 65 winners to just 13 unforced errors and breaking left-hander Zverev's serve six times.
"I think it definitely went as good as it possibly could have gone," he said. "I think I played great. Mischa has had a wonderful tournament."
Zverev, ranked 50, had pulled off one of the major upsets of the tournament with a fourth-round win over world No. 1 Andy Murray, and he did not play badly against Federer, making only 13 unforced errors.
Wawrinka, however, is expected to be a different proposition as he admitted that he is ready to emerge from the shadow of Federer and make his own statement in their semi-final showdown.
The big-hitting Wawrinka mastered former finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in a bad-tempered clash to reach his third Australian Open semi-final.
The two, who have been at odds in the past, argued heatedly at the first-set changeover and there was no love lost as the Swiss charged to a 7-6 (7-2), 6-4, 6-3 win.
So often Wawrinka has been pushed into the background by the dazzling achievements of 17-time Grand Slam champion Federer, but he gets one of his rare chances for a victory tomorrow.
"Yeah, for sure now I'm more confident with myself. When I step on the court, doesn't matter who I play, I know what I have to do if I want to win," Wawrinka said.
"For sure, against Roger, it's always special because he's so good. He's the best player of all time. He has an answer for everything. But I have managed to beat him in a Grand Slam, so we'll see.
"Most important is that I step on the court and I play my best tennis."