Roger Federer couldn't convert two match points in the third set, but he closed it out in the fourth. (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, Australia -- No. 6 Roger Federer defeated No. 4 Andy Murray 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (6), 6-3 on Wednesday to advance to his 11th consecutive Australian Open semifinal. The 17-time Grand Slam champion will meet longtime rival and 13-time major winner Rafael Nadal, the world No. 1.
The match was as much about Murray's fight as Federer's form. Federer was in command for nearly three sets, playing with controlled aggression and pouncing on Murray's passive play. Murray, who continued to show some rust in his second tournament since having back surgery in September, gave Federer too many free points and the Swiss took the first two sets easily.
As the third set progressed, Federer looked primed for a relatively easy straight-set victory. When he toed the line at 5-4 to serve out the match, he had not been broken in 50 consecutive games and he hadn't given Murray a break point all match. But Federer played a poor game and was broken. Federer then led 5-2 in the tiebreaker but still couldn't close, with Murray saving two match points and winning six of the last seven points to take the set.
"I was proud of the way I fought," Murray said.
Federer, however, was the one who created most of the chances in the fourth set; Murray saved six break points in his first service game of the set. Finally, on his 10th break point of the set, Federer broke in the eighth game and then served it out.
"I am back physically," Federer said. "I'm explosive out there. I can get to balls. I'm not afraid to go for balls. Last year at times [I] couldn't do it, but what's important is that I can do it now. I'm looking forward to the next match."
Game-by-game analysis of the match below:
6:58 a.m. ET | Roger Federer defeats Andy Murray 6-3, 6-4 6-7 (6), 6-3 to advance to the Australian Open semifinals.
Federer immediately falls behind 0-30. Murray starts the game with an absolutely blistering forehand winner and follows with a brilliant forehand pass that Federer can't control. This is massive hitting from Murray, and it's not like Federer is being passive either. As has been the case over the last hour, Murray is at his best when he's behind in the score.
Federer claws it back with some big serving and then nails an ace wide on match point. Roger Federer is into his 11th straight Australian Open semifinal and will play Rafael Nadal. How about that?
Federer: 10 aces, 0 double-faults, 64 percent first serves, 78 percent first serves won, 64 percent second serves won, 54 winners, 42 unforced errors.
Murray: 9 aces, 1 double-faults, 61 percent first serves, 67 percent first serves won, 49 percent second serves won, 41 winners, 46 unforced errors.
6:54 a.m. ET | Federer breaks, leads *5-3.
Poor start to his service game (reusable clause) for Murray and he falls behind 0-40. He saves two with some big serves. But finally, on his 10th break point of the set, Federer cracks an aggressive return and Murray can never recover. Federer breaks and will serve for the match. Again.
6:50 a.m. ET | Federer holds, leads 4-3*.
Federer gets a look at his seventh break point of the set but, again, Murray plays it beautifully. Murray is having to spend so much energy on his service games. It's another one that lasts almost 10 minutes and these are some punishing points. That said, he's hitting well.
In case you're wondering about the scene in the press room, under Rod Laver Arena, the Brits on my right are looking tense. Meanwhile, I am having a Picnic bar, which is a pretty good substitute for my usual blogger fuel of Snickers.
6:36 a.m. ET | Federer holds, leads 3-2*.
Just what the doctor ordered: Easy holds for both men.
6:28 a.m. ET | Federer holds, leads 2-1*.
A marathon service game for Murray, who quickly falls behind 0-40 with some bad errors. Murray refocuses to save all three with some gutsy hitting from the back of the court and saves one more thanks to a Federer error. Definitely some patchy play early in this set from Murray, but when he's down in the score he's playing aggressively, which is how he needs to play all the time.
After a 22-shot rally in the 18th point of the game that ends on a Murray backhand, the Scot is wheezing. Two points later, Federer gets his fifth break point of the game and Murray saves it again with some heavy forehands to Federer's backhand corner. After Murray duffs a forehand volley that would have given him the net on the 22nd point, even umpire Pascal Maria is laughing.
The Passion of the Murray. (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
We're at Deuce No. 10 as Federer gets his sixth break point and can't convert. Too passive again from Federer on the big points and Murray cracks a big backhand to open it up and eventually puts away the volley. Murray finally closes it out on the 26th point. That's 19 minutes of Murray's life that he's never going to get back. That said, that was the most consistently aggressive he's hit the ball all night.
Federer holds in negative 30 seconds.
6:10 a.m. ET | Federer holds, leads 1-0*.
So let's briefly recap what just happened over the last two and a half hours. The new and improved 2014 Federer absolutely dominated this match, hitting big on both sides, being aggressive and attacking the net to build a two-set lead. Then, when it was time to serve out the match at 5-4 in the third, 2014 Federer decided to cede the floor to 2013 Federer. He yielded his first break points of the night, which Murray converted. Then in the tiebreaker, after building a 5-2 lead and having two match points, 2013 Federer started slapping unforced error after unforced error. He blew his lead and the set.
And here we are.
Federer gets out of trouble on his serve to hold at 30. Murray has a look at a passing shot to earn break points and he nets it. Huge miss. He had all the momentum after taking that third set and he lets Federer off the hook.
6:00 a.m. ET | Andy Murray wins the tiebreak 8-6 and the third set, trails 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (6).
Murray saves two match points and comes back from 2-5 down in the tiebreaker to force a fourth set. Incredible.
Here's how the tiebreaker played out:
1-0 Murray: Ace.
1-1: Federer sends a soft second serve to the Murray backhand and he misses the return. And curses himself.
2-1 Federer: Ace.
2-2: Federer pulls Murray wide but he responds with a fantastic forehand down the line that wrong-foots Federer and then puts away the short overhead.
3-2 Federer: He gets the first mini-break thanks than unforced backhand error from Murray.
4-2 Federer: Amazing defense from Federer into the forehand corner, sliding hard into it and floating balls back for Murray to take a crack at. Murray finally tries to go for the winner down the line and overcooks it. Roger just Andy'd Andy.
5-2 Federer: Great wide serve from Federer, and Murray puts the forehand reply into the net. He's cursing. A lot.
5-3 Federer: Federer goes for a big forehand return and misses into the net.
5-4 Federer: Murray goes big down the line with his forehand and Federer can only stab at it and put a forehand into the net.
6-4 Federer: Murray gets the second serve he wants and mishits it! He floats the backhand long and he can't believe it.
6-5 Federer: First match point saved wonderfully by Murray. The two exchange some heavy hitting from the baseline but it's a big Murray forehand that gets the point.
6-6: Murray saves his second match point with some more heavy hitting. Big forehands to the Federer backhand and he earns the error. He's pumped.
7-6 Murray: This is the best Murray's played all night. He's taking consistently big swings on his forehand and that's all the difference.
8-6 Murray: Murray wins the tiebreak as Federer sends a forehand long.
5:47 a.m. ET | Murray breaks back and consolidates, Federer holds, tied 6-6.
Well wouldn't you know it: Murray has break points. His first of the night. Federer throws in a bad service game as he tries to close the match. He hits three bad misses, two on the forehand, one on the backhand. On his second break point, Murray steps into a big backhand down the line and Federer stabs it long.
Did that "not up" fire up the Scot?
He consolidates the break and there's a spring in his step. Positive body language from Murray. Sloppy play from Federer in the last five minutes. But he rebounds to hold and we're into a tiebreak.
5:39 a.m. ET | Federer breaks, leads *5-4.
Fantastic point at 40-15 on Federer's serve when a 22-shot rally ends with Murray slamming an overhead just a few feet from Federer, who is standing at the net. But this is no Azarenka-Stephens moment. Murray puts up his racket and apologizes for how close that got to Federer.
News flash: Federer holds easily. That's his 50th consecutive hold and Murray still hasn't seen a break point. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga didn't see a break point until late in the third set of his fourth-round match against Federer either.
Federer defends. (Michael Dodge/Getty Images)
At 4-4, 15-all, there's a little bit of controversy, as Federer races up to a Murray drop volley and lobs him. Murray thinks it's a double-bounce but the umpire disagrees. After multiple slo-motion viewings, it looks like Federer didn't get it but that's a tough call either way.
Murray doesn't recover from that point. He hits two bad forehand errors and Federer has the break he needs. He'll serve for the match. Murray is furiously monologuing at his chair. Just hasn't had the goods tonight.
5:28 a.m. ET | Murray holds, leads 4-3*.
And we've spotted our first FedShank! I knew this match was missing something. But that's the only point Murray wins on yet another quick and easy serving game for Federer. According to Channel 7, that's his 49th consecutive service hold. That is very good.
Also very good? Murray with a no-drama hold. Mary J. Blige rejoices.
The biggest thing we're seeing out of 2014 Federer is how heavy he's been hitting his backhand. He's less inclined to slice that shot now and is coming over it and hitting it deeper and heavier than he has before. It makes that wing less of an attackable option and that really changes the entire dynamic of how Murray (and Tsonga the other night) can play him. They're not getting any breathing room in the rally by just chunking a ball to his backhand. Last year he'd slice it back. This year he's ripping it.
5:16 a.m. ET | Murray holds, leads 3-2*.
Federer holds at love. Murray has yet to see a break point in this match. It's not easy with Federer is serving at 67 percent and winning 82 percent of those points.
For all the talk of Federer's aggression, he's really not outpacing Murray too much on the stat sheet. Murray has 20 winners and 23 unforced, while Federer has 29 winners and 24 unforced. Not as big a differential as it feels.
Murray finally gets a hold that doesn't involve walking a knife's edge and saving a break point. He swaps his blue shirt for a clean white one. Trying to channel his inner Wimbledon champion?
5:21 a.m. ET | Murray holds, leads 2-1*.
Federer holds in a flash and once again Murray is in trouble on his serve. He's screaming at himself to stop going at Federer's forehand, which, I don't know, seems like a really obvious game plan. Murray saves it with some good serving -- first serves are always nice -- and we're still on serve. He's already had to save four break points in this set.
Murray gets stretched. (William West/AFP/Getty Images)
You still get the sense that Murray can get back in this if he just tightens up his forehand and serves better. Federer isn't as sharp at this point as he was when he raced away with that first set, and Murray has to remember that he basically gave away that break in the second set with a horrible service game. In other words, this is on his racket to make it a match.
5:03 a.m. ET | Murray holds, leads 1-0*.
Courtney Nguyen here, back from a fun time calling the action for Australian Open radio. Oddest question I got: "What is hip-hop?" Where to begin. But back to the tennis. Thanks so much to Bette for holding down the fort in what has been a surprisingly one-sided affair in favor of Federer.
Murray gets into trouble in his opening service game and has to save three break points right off the bat. But he does and holds by playing his best point of the night, taking aggressive control of a 21-shot rally, which he wins with a forehand winner that Federer doesn't even move for. He really leaned into his shots in that rally, which is what he did last year when he beat Federer here.
One observation I can bring back from sitting in the courtside commentary bunker: Murray looks thinner than he did before his surgery. Whether that's intentional or a result of an abbreviating preseason training schedule is tough to say.
4:58 a.m. ET | Federer wins second set 6-4
While Murray continues to barely get a racket on Federer's serves, Federer looks like he's not even breathing hard. Maybe all of that offseason training is paying off.
Murray sails a return long, and after Federer hits the ball back to his side of the court, Murray smashes the ball into the net while yelling at himself. He's starting to get a bit worked up. A strong rally on game point ends with Murray pushing yet another ball long, and Federer leads the second set 5-3. Federer is clearly in control of this match.
Federer under control. (William West/AFP/Getty Images)
Murray's serving to stay in, and looks stressed out at this point in the match. He's hanging in during the longer rallies, but struggling to make the big shots, and Federer continues to outpace him. Offense vs. defense.
Murray pulls it out and holds, but trails Federer 5-4. Federer coming up to serve for a two-set lead. Murray still hasn't had a break point yet in this match, and now would be the ideal time for one.
Alas, he couldn't get it, and Federer takes a two-set lead. It's now or never for Murray.
4:43 a.m. ET | Federer leads 4-3*
Federer makes an incredible grab at the net that surely makes Stefan Edberg smile. He continues to simply dominate with his net play.
Murray wins his service game, but remains down a set and a break.
4:38 a.m. | Federer leads 4-2*
A well-placed ESPN camera reveals that Murray is still using his older racket as opposed to the newly strung ones. Federer holds at serve to make it 2-all, and then breaks Murray to take the lead at 3-2, so maybe it is time for Murray to try out the more powerful racket.
Listen closely to this video, and you can hear Murray's fans singing their version of Heaven Is a Place on Earth.
Federer opens his service game with an ace. He continues with the cross-court shots, all landing just out of Murray's reach. Murray pushes it to deuce, but Federer holds, making it 4-2. Is it just me, or is this match moving very quickly? According to the play clock, the match has been going on for 1:01.
4:23 a.m. ET | Murray leads 2-1*
Another strong rally from the two, ending with Federer pushing a backhand just beyond the baseline (see what I did there?). Federer nails an ace to make it 40-15, and then wins the game with a cross-court backhand winner while approaching the net. See, more net approaches.
A few points later, Murray counteracts a net approach by Federer with a perfectly placed lob to go up 30-0 in his service game. Maybe Murray can figure out how to stop Federer's net game, after all? In the next point, Federer responds with a forehand winner down the line, threading the needle between Murray and the doubles court. Murray holds, goes up 2-1 in the second set.
4:15 a.m. | Murray holds, leads 1-0*
At the beginning of the match, Murray sent out two racket to be restrung at a slightly lower weight (56, down from 58) for more power. Let's see if they help him out at all.
In the first set, Federer won 13 of 15 points when coming to the net.
Federer is taking advantage of Murray's mishits -- he completely rips a ball cross-court for a winner. That's followed by an incredible 23-shot rally by the two, including an approach to the net accompanied by a no-look backhand volley from Murray. Federer netted the ball, eliciting a yell. Murray wins the next point and goes up 1-0 this set.
Vintage Federer roars to life. (Paul Crock/AFP/Getty Images)
4:09 a.m. ET | Federer wins the first set 6-3
Murray serving to stay in the set. Federer hits a shot long, making it seven unforced errors to Murray's four so far. Federer dances around Murray's second serve to hit the forehand, but nets it. Murray wins, Federer leads 5-3.
The men are starting to show off their range of shots, with both hitting lobs, short pickups and volleys over the next few points. Murray gives a shot a little bit of air, and Federer steps around to nail a beautiful cross-court forehand winner and set up triple set point. Murray nets the return, and Federer has taken the first set 6-3. Dare I say it -- Federer appears to be in vintage form.
4:02 a.m. | Federer leads 5-2*
Federer continues to look strong, and SI.com's Jon Wertheim brings up a good point:
Keep in mind that Federer beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in straight sets in the fourth round, while Murray needed four sets to beat Stephane Robert, the lucky loser who wouldn't lose.
Federer comes to the net, and Murray hits a terrific winner down the line to make it 40-30. Federer then mishits Murray's weak second serve to give Murray the game. Federer still leads 4-2.
Federer's net game continues to be solid, as he holds for 5-2.
3:53 a.m. ET | Federer leads 4-1*
Something interesting that ESPN showed -- both Federer's and Murray's crews have put hats on the cameras, covering up view to the players' boxes. Guess we won't be getting any close-up shots of Ivan Lendl or Stefan Edberg this match.
Federer has a huge smash to go up 30-15 in the fourth game. He seems to be reaching the balls easily, while Murray is stretching to make shots. Federer puts one away at the net to set up a double break point, and breaks, now leading 3-1.
Murray struggling a bit to return Federer's powerful serves. Federer closes out with an ace, leads 4-1.
3:44 a.m. ET | Federer leads 2-1*
This is the first time that Federer has been the lower-ranked player in a matchup with Murray. Easy hold at 15 for Federer in the first game. He seems to be placing his shots well.
It's a bit breezy at Rod Laver Arena, which always affects the players. However, these guys would surely take a breeze over the scorching heat that enveloped Melbourne in the first week of the tournament. Murray goes down 0-30 in his service game, but comes back to hold.
Federer jumps out to a 40-0 start, but Murray gets a winner with a well-placed backhand volley. Federer wins the next point on a strong serve to go up 2-1.
3:27 a.m. ET | Warm up
Hello, everyone. Bette Marston, SI.com's tennis producer, here filling in for Courtney Nguyen as she works the radio for the first chunk of the Federer-Murray quarterfinal match. Don't worry, she'll be back to take the reins soon enough.
Before we get started with tonight's marquee matchup, let's take a moment to recap an awesome afternoon of tennis at Melbourne Park. Agnieszka Radwanska knocked out two-time defending champion Victoria Azarenka in three sets. No. 2 Azarenka's loss, combined with fourth-round defeats for No. 1 Serena Williams and No. 3 Maria Sharapova, leave No. 4 Li Na as the highest-ranked player remaining.
In the first men's quarterfinal match of the day, 22-year-old Grigor Dimitrov gave No. 1 Rafael Nadal a run for his money. Nadal struggled with a massive blister on his hand, but eventually prevailed in four sets. Nadal will face the winner of this matchup.
Federer and Murray are taking the court for warmups. The two met in the semifinals of the Australian Open last year; Murray won in five sets, but went on to lose to Novak Djokovic in the final. Things got a little testy in that match.
Federer to serve first.
No. 4 Andy Murray and No. 6 Roger Federer will meet in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open on Wednesday. The match is scheduled to begin at 3:30 a.m. ET. ESPN2 will televise.
Murray has taken advantage of a favorable draw to make the quarterfinals for the fifth consecutive year (he's been the runner-up three times). Playing his second tournament since returning from back surgery last September, Murray has defeated three players ranked outside the top 100 and 26th-seeded Feliciano Lopez.
Similarly, Federer opened with three players ranked no higher than 79th, but in the fourth round he looked impressive in a straight-set victory over No. 10 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Federer wasn't broken and faced only one break point against Tsonga in a performance that added to his early-season confidence.
"I don't have doubts anymore," said Federer, who is coming off his worst season since 2002. "I know I'm going definitely in the right direction."
In their most recent meeting, Murray held off Federer 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-7 (2), 6-2 in the semifinals of last year's Australian Open. With that victory, Murray improved to 11-9 all time against Federer.
"Last year is pretty relevant because it's on the same court and it will be under the same conditions," Murray said. " But in an individual sport, any day is a new day. Anything can happen."