Sunday, December 17, 2017
Sports

Federer: 'I'm back' after beating Murray in Australian Open

MELBOURNE, Australia — Roger Federer, his glory days seemingly behind him after a poor 2013, said "I'm back'' after rekindling his dominance over Andy Murray in Grand Slam matches and advancing to his 11th consecutive Australian Open semifinal with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (6-8), 6-3 win Wednesday. His semi­final opponent, old rival and top-ranked Rafael Nadal, is battling a blister on his left hand and feeling fortunate to still be playing.

No. 6 seed Federer clinched his match with an ace on his third match point. Nadal beat Grigor Dimitrov in four tight sets 3-6, 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (9-7), 6-2.

Nadal received treatment several times for a nasty-looking blister on his left palm that he said caused him to serve slower than usual and affected his racket grip. The Spaniard fended off three set points in the third, including two in the tiebreaker, and won on his first set point.

Nadal, 27, acknowledged that Dimitrov let him off the hook when he pushed a forehand just wide on set point in the third-set tiebreaker.

"If that forehand from him goes in and he wins the third, I'm going to be fighting," Nadal said.

After the third set, as trainers reapplied a wrap to the blister, Nadal's legs shook.

Murray, the fourth seed, has an 11-10 edge over Federer in head-to-head matches and won their previous match in five sets in the Australian Open semifinals last year, but Federer is 4-1 against him in majors.

Friday will be the 33rd meeting of Nadal and Federer, and the first in a Grand Slam event since the 2012 Australian semifinals.

Federer, 32, declined to compare his play in 2014 to "my good years," but he did say that his movement felt off last season. Now he looks to continue the tournament's string of upsets. After beating Murray, he was asked about Nadal's blister issues. Federer laughed and said he would see on Friday.

"We've had some epics over the years," Federer said. "I hope we can slug it out here in a couple of days."

Li reaches final

China's Li Na advanced to her third Australian Open final with a 6-2, 6-4 win today over 19-year-old Canadian Eugenie Bouchard.

No. 4 seed Li, the 2011 French Open champion, is the only major winner and the highest-ranked player still in contention after the fourth-round upsets of Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova and defending champion Victoria Azarenka's quarterfinal loss to Agnieszka Radwanska.

No. 5 Radwanska of Poland played Slovakia's Dominika Cibul­kova in the second semifinal.

Li lost last year's Australian final to Azarenka, after falling over and hitting her head twice on the court. She lost the 2011 decider to Kim Clijsters.

"Last time was a little bit tough. I will try this time to make one more step," said Li, who turns 32 next month.

Bouchard didn't win a point in her first three service games. In the second set, the pair exchanged four service breaks in the first six games before Li took charge.

Li finished off the match with a backhand crosscourt.

"I think maybe she will be best player in the world. But today (I'm) so lucky," Li said.

Bouchard attracted a big cheering section, the group growing after her first match and calling itself the "Genie Army."

Li jokingly apologized to the Genie Army after the match: "Sorry about that. If you guys be happy, I will go home."

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