Ageless Federer, Venus into semis

Melbourne : Roger Federer beat giant-killer Mischa Zverev to become the Australian Open’s oldest men’s semi-finalist in nearly 40 years, as fellow veteran Venus Williams also rolled back the years. The stylish Swiss made light of the challenge posed by German serve-volleyer Zverev, who stunned top seed Andy Murray in the fourth round, to reach a record-extending 41st Grand Slam semi-final. Federer won 6-1, 7-5, 6-2 in just 92 minutes to set up a last-four clash with his compatriot Stan Wawrinka, who won a bad-tempered quarter-final with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6 (7/2) 6-4 6-3.

The 35-year-old Federer becomes the tournament’s oldest semi-finalist since Arthur Ashe in 1978, and the oldest at any Grand Slam since Jimmy Connors reached the 1991 US Open last four aged 39. The draw has opened up invitingly for Federer, a four-time winner in Melbourne, and 2014 champion Wawrinka, as well as fellow thirty-something Rafael Nadal after the exits of Murray and title-holder Novak Djokovic.  “I’m happy for (Wawrinka) that he got this far, but he doesn’t need to go one step further,” Federer joked. “That’s enough.”

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Sania, Bopanna to clash for semis spot in mixed doubles

Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna set up a mixed doubles quarterfinal clash against each other at the Australian Open after winning their respective matches, here on Tuesday. Bopanna and his Canadian partner Gabriela Dabrowski knocked out the fifth-seeded team of Yung-Jan Chan and Lukasz Kubot 6-4 5-7 10-3 in their second round match. Later, Sania and her partner Croatian Ivan Dodig, seeded second, overcame stiff resistance from Saisai Zheng and Alexander Peya to triumph 2-6 6-3 10-6. Austrian Peya served a double fault at 5-5 in the decisive Super Tie-Breaker but after that the second seeds reeled off five straight points to seal the issue.

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Earlier Wawrinka and France’s Tsonga, who have been at odds in the past, argued heatedly at the first-set changeover before the Swiss charged into his third Melbourne semi-final. “In the semis I play Roger. It’s going to be tough to have some fans but I hope some people will cheer for me,” said Wawrinka, 31.

In the women’s draw, Williams’ age-defying campaign reached new heights as she beat Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova to become the oldest female Grand Slam semi-finalist in 23 years. Williams, 36, won 6-4 7-6 (7/3) to reach the last four without dropping a set and move towards a possible ninth Grand Slam final against her sister Serena, 16 years after their first. “Why shouldn’t I?” said the seven-time major-winner, who is thriving again after a battle with an autoimmune disorder, when asked if she could win her first major title since 2008. “I try to believe. Should I look across the net and believe the person across the net deserves it more?

“This mentality is not how champions are made. I’d like to be a champion, in particular this year. The mentality I walk on court with is, ‘I deserve this’.”

Next up for Williams is her hard-hitting, aggressive fellow American Coco Vandeweghe, who stunned French Open champion Garbine Muguruza to reach her first Grand Slam semi-final. The tall, powerful Vandeweghe smashed 31 winners past the Spaniard and raced through the second set in just 28 minutes to complete a lopsided 6-4 6-0 upset win. —AFP

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