Sunday 18 March 2018 / 10:52 AM


Roger Federer is the first man into the Australian Open final after holding off good friend and fellow Swiss Stan Wawrinka in five sets, 7-5 6-3 1-6 4-6 6-3.

It completes an improbable run to the final for Federer, who is playing his first official tournament since Wimbledon last year after overcoming a knee injury.

The last of his 17 majors came in 2012 but he has played in three losing finals since, all to Novak Djokovic.  This time, on the other side of the net come Sunday, will be either old adversary Rafael Nadal or surprise packet Grigor Dimitrov, who battle on Friday.

In a tight first set, Wawrinka played a passive point when he had a break point to go 6-5 up. Federer saved it and then broke in the very next game to take the set.

Federer continued his high standard as he broke in the sixth game of the second, prompting a frustrated Wawrinka to snap his racquet in half. Unsurprisingly, he incurred a code violation from umpire Jake Garner.

Wawrinka went into set three with some tape just under his right kneecap and it seemed to be a blessing in disguise. The 2014 winner went all out attack and embarked on an unforeseeable rampage winning six straight games from 1-1.

Federer played a loose game at 1-2, which came out of nowhere, and continued to hit a string of errors in what was probably his worst set of the tournament.

Wawrinka continued the momentum, breaking in game nine of the fourth.

In a tense final set, Federer had to save break points in two different games but then was gifted a break after his Davis Cup teammate served a double fault.

On Sunday, the Swiss maestro will contest his 28th slam final as he looks to lift his 18th major title.

An all-Williams final for the ninth time

Venus Williams is into a grand slam final for the first time since 2009 after a 6-7 6-2 6-3 win over unseeded Coco Vandeweghe. The 36 year old sets up a blockbuster final against younger sister Serena, who ended the fairy-tale run of Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in devastating fashion.

The world No.79 from Croatia was no match for Serena, going down only 50 minutes, with Serena winning 92% of first serve points. Lucic-Baroni could never sink her teeth into the match, hitting 14 unforced errors in the opening set.

Serena, being the great front-runner that she is, offered no respite and broke her opponent’s serve five times.

In the more captivating semi-final, both players exchanged breaks in the opening two games before settling with their serves. Vandeweghe played a high-quality tiebreak to take the lead.

But with the possibility of a maiden major final looming, the moment might have been too big for her. The 25-year-old hit 11 double faults and a whopping 51 unforced errors while a much more steady Venus took control with her first serve.

Even when Vandeweghe did go down an early break in set two, she had seven break points throughout the set and another two chances in the third set but couldn’t take her opportunities. In all, she was one from 13 on break points.

Venus is usually quite reserved in expressing her emotions compared to Serena, but she wasn’t hiding her delight after this win.

“It means so much, mostly because she played so well,” Venus said.

“I don’t even remember what happened on the last point. I just know the match is over. Oh my God!”

Venus is now into her first Australian Open final since 2003 but will start as the underdog against her younger sister on Saturday. Serena will be aiming for an Open Era, record-extending seventh Australian Open title.

She’ll also be trying to break Steffi Graf’s mark of 22 major titles, which she’s level with. And should Serena win, she’ll also regain the No.1 ranking only four months after losing it to Angelique Kerber.

Venus and Serena have combined for 29 majors in careers that have spanned three decades. On Saturday, they’ll face off in a grand slam final for the first time in eight years. Serena leads Venus 16-11 overall in past meetings, and 6-2 in slam finals.

[YouTube – Australian Open TV]

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Farhan Shah

A recent addition to the roster, Melburnian Farhan is a sports nut who has come on board to provide golf, tennis, AFL and rugby league coverage for CBS.

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