MELBOURNE: Roger Federer fought back from a mid-match stumble against Andy Murray Wednesday to set up a classic Australian Open semi-final with Rafael Nadal, as women's champion Victoria Azarenka became the latest star to fall.
After Nadal battled through an unexpectedly tough quarter-final with Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov, Federer showed both his vintage best and his fallibility in beating Murray 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (6/8), 6-3.
Federer largely dominated the match and had two match points in a third-set tiebreaker, only for Murray to fight back and take the quarter-final into a fourth set.
Roger Federer of Switzerland celebrates his win over Andy Murray of Britain during their men's singles match on day ten of the 2014 Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on Wednesday. Pic/AFP
The Swiss great was electric in the first two sets but he tightened as he neared the finishing line.
However, he extended Murray in a 19-minute hold at the start of the fourth set, then got the crucial break for 5-3 and, after setting up a third match point, he grabbed the opportunity with an ace.
Following his victory, Federer trails Murray 11-10 head-to-head the Swiss legend is into his 11th consecutive semi-final at Melbourne Park.
It was the first time that Murray has lost in five quarter-finals at the Australian Open.
Federer, who is working with Swedish six-time major-winner Stefan Edberg, looked mainly in confident touch and hit 54 winners with 42 unforced errors, along with four service breaks.
"I thought Andy did well, he kept the ball in play and put the pressure on me and unfortunately I couldn't get it done in the third set, with either the serve or the forehand missing. So I am happy to get the win in four," Federer said.
"I am much higher than I was last year and that's very satisfying just because I have confidence in my movement."
Federer, in his 11th consecutive Australian Open semi-final, will face the man who has become his Grand Slam nemesis, winning their last five encounters at major tournaments.
Andy Murray Wednesday said he was always "very unlikely" to win the Australian Open four months after back surgery but added he was happy with his progress despite going out against Roger Federer.
The Wimbledon champion fought resiliently and forced their quarter-final into a fourth set before going down to the 17-time Grand Slam champion 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (6/8), 6-3 in three hours 20 minutes.
It was an encouraging performance from the world number four in just his seventh match this season after missing the tail-end of last season following his operation in September.
Britain's Andy Murray reacts during his men's singles match against Switzerland's Roger Federer on day ten of the 2014 Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on Wednesday. Pic/AFP
"I don't know how many players have come back from surgery and won the first Grand Slam back in their second tournament. It's very unlikely to happen," Murray said.
"I just need to use this as a stepping stone to getting better and be happy that I've got through five matches here. The last two were particularly tough.
"I'm playing at a decent level fairly quickly again. Hopefully I'll be back playing my best tennis soon."
It took Murray until near the end of the third set to get his first break on Federer's service and he showed great courage to fight off two match points in the third set tiebreaker before succumbing late in the fourth set.
"In the first two sets I thought he played great tennis," Murray said.
Although he lost, Murray still leads Federer 11-10 in their head-to-head meetings, while it was the first time that the Scot has lost in five quarter-finals at the Australian Open.