Roger Federer reduces Australians in Brisbane
LAINE CLARK AND ED JACKSON
The stage was set for an early Australia Day celebration at the Brisbane International on Friday.
In the end, it was more like Groundhog Day.
Former world No 1 Roger Federer turned back the clock in the quarter-finals to ensure veteran Lleyton Hewitt was once again the last Australian man standing.
For the first time in an ATP tour event in 10 years, three Australians featured in the men's quarter-finals in Brisbane.
Hewitt outclassed Romanian qualifier Marius Copil 6-4 6-2 but the Pat Rafter Arena faithful had little else to cheer about.
Victorian Sam Groth fell 7-5 6-4 to eighth-seeded Frenchman Jeremy Chardy before Federer thrashed Marinko Matosevic 6-1 6-1 in less than an hour on Friday night.
World No 61 Matosevic held three break points in the opening game but never again threatened as the 17-time grand slam champion effortlessly booked a semi-final against Chardy.
Second seed Kei Nishikori will play Hewitt after the world No 17 outlasted Croatia's Marin Cilic 6-4 5-7 6-2 after more than two and a half hours in sweltering afternoon heat.
The results ensured a Federer-Hewitt final remained on track, a prospect that even intrigued the Swiss master.
"I would love it. We've never played each other in the finals here in Australia, so clearly now we're both one match a way," said Federer, who will also feature in doubles semi-finals action on Saturday.
"I think he's got a chance against Kei.
"(And) I hope I can get there (final)."
Federer appeared a very different player to the one who slumped to world No.6 after a horror 2013 in which he failed to make a grand slam final for the first time since 2002.
He will be backing himself for a tilt at a fifth Australian Open crown after a rare, untroubled off-season and adding tennis great Stefan Edberg to his coaching staff for 2014.
"Tonight I felt very good against Matosevic who can play very dangerous," Federer said.
"He's got a good enough serve and return as well. But I was able to control most of the match except the very beginning."
He is not the only revitalised 32-year-old in Brisbane.
"This is still why you play the game, to have a crack at the best guys out there," Hewitt said of his semi-final clash.
"Obviously every match gets tougher. Nishikori tomorrow is going to be tougher again, another step up in class.
"It's obviously great preparation for the Australian Open, but I wanted to do well here this week - so far, so good."