Tennis: Federer into Aussie Open final against Cilic as Chung retires injured, Babos and Mladenovic win doubles

Roger Federer was leading 6-1, 5-2 when Chung Hyeon called it quits with foot blisters in their Australian Open semi-final on Jan 26.
Roger Federer was leading 6-1, 5-2 when Chung Hyeon called it quits with foot blisters in their Australian Open semi-final on Jan 26.PHOTO: REUTERS

MELBOURNE (AFP) - Defending champion Roger Federer strolled into the Australian Open final in a bittersweet win after Chung Hyeon retired injured in their semi-final on Friday.

The Swiss star was leading 6-1, 5-2 when the South Korean called it quits with foot blisters and will now face Marin Cilic in Sunday's final.

Chung, the first South Korean man or woman to play in a Grand Slam semi-final, was treated in a medical timeout for the left foot problem two games earlier.

But it came as a big surprise when the 21-year-old walked to the net at 30-30 and trailing 2-5 after 1hr 2min in the second set to concede defeat.

It put Federer into his seventh Australian final as he chases his sixth Melbourne title and 20th Grand Slam victory.

Federer leads 2014 US Open champion Cilic 8-1 in their meetings.

The Croat has experienced the highs and lows of playing in a Grand Slam final and says he is primed to be at his physical best for the decider.

He said on Friday: "I've played a great tournament so far, I've improved it comparing to end of the last year. I'm playing much more aggressive, hitting most the shots really good.

"From the return, moving, forehand, backhand, serving, I think everything is in a good, solid spot. Feeling really excited about the final."

The world No. 6 is the first Croatian man or woman to appear in the final at Melbourne Park as he guns for his second major title.

His career high point so far has been his victory at the 2014 US Open where, as the 14th seed, he swept Federer in straight sets on the way to beating Kei Nishikori in the Flushing Meadows final.

But he was in tears when he gamely played on with a nasty blister on his left foot in the 2017 Wimbledon decider against the Swiss maestro, describing it as very tough to deal with.

Federer now has a 30-13 win-loss record in Grand Slam semi-finals and has yet to drop a set in this year's Australian Open.

"You couldn't tell until the end," he said of Chung's injury problems. "That's probably why a lot of people are stunned (he retired).

"I could tell something was wrong before he took the injury timeout, but he has a great composure.

"I think he is already a great player, but we are talking next level excellence and I think he will achieve that.

"We will see much more of him. Top 10 for sure. The rest we will see."

It was a muted semi-final with the Rod Laver Arena retractable roof closed for rain further improving Federer's chances given his indoor record.

 
 

He broke Chung's opening service and twice more to romp away with the first set in just 33 minutes as the Korean made a flurry of errors.

It got no better in the second set with Federer again breaking in the fourth game before the trainer was called onto the court to treat Chung for his foot blisters.

Chung only lasted a bit more than two games before pulling out to a stunned silence.

"In the second set I felt he was starting to get a bit slower, fighting with a blister," Federer said.

"I've played with blisters in the past a lot, and it hurts a lot, and at one point it is just too much and you can't take it any more.

"That's when you realise there is no way you can come back and you make things really worse, it is better to stop. That's why this feels bittersweet.

"Obviously I'm incredibly happy to be in the finals, but not like this."

Federer broke Chung's serve four times off 11 break points and only had one break point on his own service.

The Swiss second seed hit 24 winners, while Chung made 17 unforced errors in 14 games, eight of them off his normally potent forehand.

Earlier on Friday, fifth seeds Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic took the women's doubles title to be crowned Grand Slam champions for the first time.

The Hungarian-French pairing battled past second-seeded Russians Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina 6-4, 6-3 on Rod Laver Arena.

"It's an incredible feeling, I was in tears," said an emotional Babos. "It's amazing to play with you," she added of Mladenovic.

It was their first Slam title after going close at Wimbledon in 2014, where they made the final but lost. Overall, they own three other doubles titles as a team, all won in 2015 - at Dubai, Marrakech and Rome.