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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Safin Fights His Way Into the Final

APMarat Safin leaning on the net after winning a grueling Australian Open semifinal against Roger Federer 5-7, 6-4, 5-7, 7-6. 9-7.
MELBOURNE, Australia -- Marat Safin brought Roger Federer's Grand Slam streak to a shuddering halt, beating the seemingly invincible world No. 1 5-7, 6-4, 5-7, 7-6, 9-7 in a heart-stopping semifinal at the Australian Open on Thursday.

Safin, runner-up in two of the last three Australian Opens, including last year when Federer beat him, twice came back from a set down and saved a match point in the fourth set tiebreak before winning one of Melbourne Park's greatest battles.

"You have to understand, I'm not playing against just a simple player, it's the number one player in the world," a relieved Safin told reporters. "For some reason I found the power to fight."

Safin, whose only Grand Slam title was at the U.S. Open in 2000, will now play the winner of Friday's second semifinal between Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt in Sunday's final.

The women's final, to be held on Saturday, will be an all-American clash between Serena Williams and Lindsay Davenport after they also clawed back from the brink of defeat to win their semifinals on Thursday.

Williams saved three match points before beating Russian teenager Maria Sharapova 2-6, 7-5, 8-6, while Davenport came within two points of losing before she wore down Nathalie Dechy of France 2-6, 7-6, 6-4.

Federer had not lost a match since last year's Athens Olympics in August and was chasing his fourth Grand Slam title in 12 months after winning last year's Australian Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open crowns.

He had also won his last 24 matches against players ranked in the top 10 and was the hottest favorite in a century to win the Australian Open.

Everything seemed to be going according to script when he won the opening set but the first hint of a boilover came when Safin won the second.

Federer appeared to have regained control when he won the third and held match point in the fourth but Safin produced a perfect lob to stay alive.

Federer saved six match points in the final set, but his resistance finally snapped after four 1/2 hours when Safin celebrated his 25th birthday with a victory that brought the crowd to its feet.

Williams lost last year's Wimbledon final and the season-ending tour championship to Sharapova and seemed destined for a third defeat when the 17-year-old Siberian won the opening set and served for the match in the second and third sets.


Reuters

Sharapova despairing at losing a point.

But the former world No. 1 broke back both times in a struggle reminiscent of her semifinal against Belgian Kim Clijsters in the 2003 Australian Open when she saved two match points before reaching the final and winning the title.

There was no hiding Sharapova's disappointment, but she still managed to put on a brave face.

"Of course I'm sad, and obviously it's a tough one to lose but I've got a long way ahead of me," she said.

Davenport also needed to draw on her wealth of experience to beat Dechy, who was appearing in her first semifinal in a decade as a professional.

It will be the first time two Americans have contested a women's Grand Slam final since Wimbledon 2003 when Serena beat older sister Venus as she had done at the Australian Open that year.

Russians have won the last three Grand Slam women's tournaments.