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Roger Federer serves in a practice session on Wednesday in Melbourne http://www.cheapmlbdiamondbacksjerseys.c...an-Walker/ , Australia. Photo: CFP
Roger Federer's Grand Slam renaissance faces the difficult if familiar obstacle of Stan Wawrinka on Thursday in an all-Swiss blockbuster for a place in the Australian Open final.

The 35-year-old Swiss marvel has been the talk of the year's first major in his unforeseen, roll-back-the-years charge at an 18th Grand Slam crown.

Federer has surprised even himself in reaching the semifinal after missing the -second half of 2016 following knee surgery, with his ranking slipping to 17.

He has tossed aside top-10 players Tomas Berdych and Kei Nishikori, along with Andy Murray's conqueror Mischa Zverev, to reach the last four and a date with long-time Swiss teammate Wawrinka, the world No.4.

"If someone would have told me I'd play in the semis against Stan http://www.cheapmlbdiamondbacksjerseys.c...ck-Corbin/ , never would I have called that one for me. For Stan, yes, but not for me," Federer admitted.

It is an intriguing matchup as the all-time great sizes up his long-term accomplice Wawrinka, with much on the line.

The statistics point to a Federer victory, -after 18 wins to just three in their career meetings and 5-1 in Grand Slam encounters.

But Wawrinka has developed into a great player on his own right under the coaching of Swede Magnus Norman http://www.cheapmlbdiamondbacksjerseys.com/Robbie-Ray/ , with three major victories in the last three years including a 2014 breakthrough triumph in Australia.

"He's become such a good player, I super-respect that the guy is able to transform his game in his footwork, in his mind, also in his game plan," Federer said. "He's always been a believer that he can do it."

Wawrinka, for so long in the shadow of Federer's stellar career http://www.cheapmlbdiamondbacksjerseys.c...e-La-Rosa/ , remains -respectful but there is a self-belief that makes him a formidable opponent in Thursday's showdown.

"I'm more confident with myself. When I step on the court it doesn't matter who I play. I know what I have to do if I want to win," Wawrinka said.

"Against Roger it's always special ... He's the best player of all time. He has an answer for everything. But I managed to beat him in a Grand Slam."

Wawrinka got one over Federer on clay in the quarterfinals of the 2015 French Open, although he was well beaten in their last Grand Slam meeting in the semifinals of the 2015 US Open.

"Last time I got killed in US Open. He was playing way better than me," he said. "He's playing so well since the beginning of the tournament ... Hopefully I can manage to play a great match."

In the recent dominance of Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, Federer's hopes of adding to his record 17 Grand Slams appeared forlorn, given his advancing years.

Federer is looking to become the second oldest man in the Open era after Ken Rosewall (at 37) to win a Grand Slam title.

The Swiss legend won his last Grand Slam at Wimbledon in 2012 and made his last major final at the 2015 US Open.

But Murray and Djokovic are no longer in Melbourne after stunning early round exits http://www.cheapmlbdiamondbacksjerseys.c...Boxberger/ , boosting Federer's initially remote -chances. It is a fascinating sub-plot that his close friend Wawrinka may yet have the final say.
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