Roger Federer beat Mischa Zverev to book his place into the semi-finals of the Australian Open
Sentimental favourites, yes; realistic hopes for the title, maybe not. No matter, both dispatched their quarter-final opponents in straight sets and both had the excitement and enthusiasm of teenagers about what was to come.
Federer ended the fairytale story of Mischa Zverev, the man who had knocked out Andy Murray, dismantling the German's serve-and-volley game 6-1, 7-5, 6-2 in a whirlwind of 65 clean winners.
Zverev had the temerity to break the Federer serve in the second set but that was his one moment of glory – Federer broke straight back and that was pretty much that.
After six months off with a knee injury, the Swiss has now played eight matches; three at the exhibition event in Perth and five in Melbourne. That he is through to the semi-finals is beyond his wildest dreams and at the venerable age of 35, he cannot quite believe how well his comeback is going.
"Winning back-to-back matches in best-of-five sets against quality, great players has been the surprise," he said. "I felt I was always going to be dangerous on any given day in a match situation, but as the tournament would progress, maybe I would fade away.
Venus Williams advanced to the semi-finals after beating Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
"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."
But there he will face Stan Wawrinka, the world No3 and a three-time Grand Slam champion. Blessed with the best backhand in the game, a beautiful shot that he backs up with the strength of an ox, he has lost all but three of their last 21 matches.
Wawrinka is strong and he is match tight while Federer is still feeling his way back to his best. The man they call Stanimal may be one rival too many and too early for the former world No1. He was certainly too much for Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who faded away tepidly 7-6, 6-4, 6-3.
For Federer, the whole month has been an adventure as he has tested himself day by day. With his four children enjoying the Australian sunshine, they have been cheering on their father through his Melbourne campaign.
"They told me many times, 'Please don't lose, Daddy, we want to stay here longer'," Federer said. "For the first time today, one of my daughters said, 'It's okay, I want to go skiing in Switzerland now'." On current form, young Miss Federer may get her wish on Friday.
The sexiest tennis outfits of all time
Tue, July 12, 2016
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As Nike recalls their new tennis dress for being to revealing, we take a look at the sexiest tennis outfits of all time.
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The sexiest tennis outfits of all time
The past 10 days have been a dream for Williams, too. She has not been in the semi-finals in Melbourne since 2001 and now, aged 36 and dealing daily with the effects of Sjogren's syndrome, an auto-immune disease, many thought another Grand Slam title was far beyond her.
Yet she has not dropped a set on her way to the last four and yesterday overpowered Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4, 7-6.
When the Russian double-faulted on match point, Williams hugged herself then beamed from ear to ear as she pirouetted around the court. It was fair to say she was happy – but she is far from done. Williams wants this title and she thinks she is playing well enough to win it.
"The tournament is by no means over," she warned. "It's definitely down to the business end. I feel like I'm playing the kind of tennis I want to produce the results that I want. I'd like to be a champion, in particular this year. The mentality I walk on court with is: I deserve this."
Standing in her way tomorrow will be CoCo Vandeweghe, the 25-year-old world No35 from America. She is strong, she is fierce and she takes no prisoners, and yesterday she flattened Garbine Muguruza, the French Open champion, 6-4, 6-0.