Roger Federer held firm against a furious fightback from fellow Swiss Stan Wawrinka, edging his former apprentice 7-5 6-3 1-6 4-6 6-3 in a Melbourne Park classic to reach the final of the Australian Open on Thursday.
On the day the Williams sisters booked their place in the women’s final, 35-year-old Federer continued the march of the veterans, becoming the oldest man to reach a grand slam final in more than 40 years.
The Swiss master was shaken as fourth seed Wawrinka stormed back to level the match at a floodlit Rod Laver Arena but it was his opponent who blinked first in the tension-riven decider.
Wawrinka double-faulted to hand Federer the key break in the sixth game and four-times champion Federer rode a wave of adulation from the terraces to serve out the match to love.
One win from an 18th grand slam title and a first in five years, Federer also kept alive the chance of a dream final with great rival Rafa Nadal, who plays the second semi-final against 15th seed Grigor Dimitrov.
The Swiss will become the oldest men’s grand slam finalist since Ken Rosewall featured in the US Open in 1974 at the age of 39.
“It’s all real, I never thought in my wildest dreams I would come this far in Australia,” a glowing Federer said in his courtside interview, having come to Australia with no expectations after six months out of the game.