Melbourne: Roger Federer zeroed in on a 20th Grand Slam title on Wednesday with Chung Hyeon next in his Australian Open firing line as dominant Angelique Kerber and Simona Halep raced into a semi-final showdown.
The clinical Swiss ace strode into the last four at Melbourne Park for a 14th time with a clinical 7-6 (1), 6-3, 6-4 dismantling of old foe Tomas Berdych.
He now faces Chung on Friday for a place in the final after the unseeded South Korean kept his dream run going by battling past American Tennys Sandgren 6-4, 7-6 (5), 6-3 to become the lowest-ranked semi-finalist since Marat Safin in 2004.
Germany’s Kerber, champion two years ago, swept aside Madison Keys 6-1, 6-2, easily taming the American’s big serve and will go into her clash with the world number one on a 14- match win streak.
Top seed Halep was equally impressive on Rod Laver Arena in thumping sixth seed Karolina Pliskova 6-3, 6-2, reeling off nine games in a row after going 0-3 behind in the first set.
Defending champion Federer, chasing a sixth Australian title, held a 19-6 lead over the Czech 19th seed going into the match and after a close first set, it was one-way traffic.
Ranked 58, the bespectacled Chung, nicknamed “The Professor”, proved too hot for his fellow quarter-final rookie Sandgren, although he needed six match points to win.
Plan in head
Kerber, who won the title in 2016, is in scintillating form after an unbeaten singles campaign in the Hopman Cup and her triumph in the Sydney International warm-up.
Keys was expected to be a stiff challenge, having not dropped a set en route to the quarters, but she melted under the German’s relentless groundstrokes and pinpoint return of serve. The win ensures Kerber, seeded 21, will move back into the world’s top 10.
Halep is next for her on Thursday, with the nuggety Romanian taming towering Czech Pliskova’s serve to scamper into the last four for the first time in Melbourne. “I didn’t have the best start, but I restarted after three games. I stopped missing so much and moved better,” said Halep, who showed no signs of the ankle injury that has been troubling her in previous rounds.
She is wary of Kerber and vowed to “stay calm and play like I did today”.
“I have a plan in my head. I know most of the time where she’s hitting. That’s why maybe I can win against her,” she said.