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Federer faces the mountain

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Former world No.1 Jim Courier likens Roger Federer’s Australian Open draw to being “on murderer’s row”.

To land a record fifth Open crown, Federer must beat Wimbledon champion Andy Murray on Wednesday night and then, in all likelihood, world No.1 Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals and Djokovic-slayer Stanislas Wawrinka in the title match.

“If that would happen, it would be extraordinary,” doubles great Todd Woodbridge told AAP.

And after his virtuoso display against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the fourth round, Federer – hitting it flatter and faster with his new oversized racquet and thriving under new coach Stefan Edberg – is refusing to rule it out.

“If you don’t embrace that challenge, you might as well not enter the draw,” he said.

“You might as well stay at home and watch other guys battle it out.”

But he acknowledges it won’t be easy.

“It’s a tough thing to do,” Federer said.

Federer’s immediate concern is finding a way past Murray in their first clash since the Scot edged the Swiss in five sets in last year’s semi-finals.

“I know I’m going definitely in the right direction,” he said.

Three of their previous four grand slam meetings have been in finals – Federer victorious each time, at the US Open in 2008, Australian Open in 2010 and Wimbledon in 2012.

Murray, who hadn’t won a major to that point, hit back to beat Federer in the 2012 London Olympics final.

He followed that by breaking his grand slam duck with triumphs at the 2012 US Open and at Wimbledon last year.

In between, he notched his first grand slam win over Federer, in a five-set semi-final battle last year at Melbourne Park.

Murray is coming off spinal surgery, which restricted him to a handful of lead-up matches before the Open.

While he’s progressed comfortably to this point, Wednesday night’s clash provides the first real test of how seriously that low-key build-up has impacted his title hopes.

Earlier on Wednesday, 22-year-old Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, touted as a future world No.1, will meet the incumbent, Rafael Nadal.

In women’s matches, Slovakian 20th seed Dominika Cibulkova, coming off a fourth-round upset of Maria Sharapova, faces Romania’s Simona Halep.

Two-time champion Victoria Azarenka, yet to drop a set in the tournament, meets Polish fifth seed Agnieszka Radwanska.

 

 

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