Roger Federer plays quick matches, but Friday’s Australian Open semifinal was even quicker than usual.
The Swiss moved into Sunday’s final in Melbourne when South Korea’s history-maker Hyeon Chung retired with a foot issue while trailing 5-2 in the second set. Federer — who breeze the first set 6-1 — now finds himself in a record seventh Australian Open final and 30th grand slam final overall.
The contest under the roof at Rod Laver Arena lasted only 62 minutes and about five of those came when Chung received a medical timeout at 1-4 in the second set, seemingly for a blister. He called it quits minutes later.
“I thought the first set was normal,” said Federer, 36, in an on-court interview. “I couldn’t tell what was going on with my opponent.
“In the second set I felt he was getting slower. Clearly, I’m happy to be in the final but not like this. He’s had such a wonderful tournament.”
A 20th major for Federer?
It’s been that kind of week at Melbourne Park in the men’s draw: World No. 1 Rafael Nadal retired in the quarterfinals against Marin Cilic with a hip issue in a fifth set and Kyle Edmund was hindered physically in his semifinal defeat Thursday to Cilic.
But barring his knee injury in 2016, Federer has mostly been in good health in his career and the nature of Friday’s tussle means he’ll be well rested for his clash with Cilic in a repeat of the Wimbledon final as he bids for a landmark 20th major.
On that day, Cilic himself was troubled by a foot injury but that was their only lopsided duel in the last five meetings. Cilic memorably cruised past Federer en route to winning the 2014 US Open.
Federer revealed that he and Cilic played against each other while on holiday in the Maldives a couple of months ago.
“We were both looking for a hitting partner,” explained the Swiss.
“He’s a really nice guy. He had similar problem as Chung in the final at Wimbledon. It will help him that he’s had two days off and he hasn’t had to come through a tough semifinal. We’ll see a fresh Marin. He believes he can come this far, he will go far.”
The bespectacled Chung was South Korea’s first grand slam quarterfinalist, but his task of upsetting Federer became more difficult when he was broken in the first game. Federer’s flawless play, and Chung’s injury, meant there was little chance of an upset for the 21-year-old in their first encounter.
Still, it was a fine fortnight for the bespectacled Chung, who had upset both Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev.
Simona Halep faces Caroline Wozniacki in a blockbuster women’s final Saturday. It features the world’s two highest-ranked players and will end with one of them winning their first grand slam.