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Federer beats Murray in four sets to face down Nadal in the semifinals

MELBOURNE -- Record Grand Slam champion Roger Federer set up an Australian Open semifinal with Rafael Nadal after beating Andy Murray in the last eight on Wednesday.

The Swiss sixth seed downed the Wimbledon champion 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (6/8), 6-3 in three hours 20 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.

Federer largely dominated the match and had two match points in a third-set tiebreaker, only for Murray to fight back and take the quarterfinal into a fourth set.

Murray fought off six break points in a titanic 19-minute service game in the fourth set, but was broken in the eighth game when Federer volleyed into an empty court.

The 17-time Grand Slam champion then served out for the match, winning it on his third overall match point to set up a keenly awaited date with his great rival Nadal on Friday.

Following his victory, Federer trails Murray 11-10 head-to-head the Swiss legend is into his 11th consecutive semifinal at Melbourne Park.

It was the first time that Murray has lost in five quarterfinals at the Australian Open.

Federer, who is working with Swedish six-time major-winner Stefan Edberg, looked mainly in confident touch and hit 54 winners with 42 unforced errors, along with four service breaks.

“I thought Andy did well, he kept the ball in play and put the pressure on me and unfortunately I couldn't get it done in the third set, with either the serve or the forehand missing. So I am happy to get the win in four,” Federer said.

“I am much higher than I was last year and that's very satisfying just because I have confidence in my movement.

“I am happy that the last four months of work have paid off and now I am in the semis. It's an amazing start to the season.”

Rafael Nadal narrowly avoided joining the Australian Open's shock casualties on Wednesday as women's champion Victoria Azarenka became the latest star to fall in what has become a tournament of upsets.

A day after Novak Djokovic's three-year Melbourne reign was halted by Stanislas Wawrinka, Nadal also flirted with disaster before getting out of jail against smooth Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov.

The 13-time Grand Slam champion, troubled by a huge blister on his racquet hand, went a set down against the exciting young prospect and, facing set points in the third, he was tottering.

But Dimitrov, 22, went just long on the first set point and Nadal saved another before the Bulgarian gave him a one-set lead when, gifted an easy winner off a net cord, he ballooned his forehand out.

“I was so lucky,” admitted the Spaniard, who ran out a 3-6, 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (9/7), 6-2 winner and will face either Roger Federer or Andy Murray in his 22nd Grand Slam semifinal.

Djokovic's defeat by Wawrinka, who will play Tomas Berdych in the semis, ensures that Melbourne will host the first Slam final not contested by two of tennis's “Big Four” since the 2010 French Open.

“I'm a bit shattered,” said Dimitrov. “It's tough losing that match, my first (Grand Slam) quarter-final. I came out expecting nothing less than to win.”

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Roger Federer of Switzerland celebrates after defeating Andy Murray of Britain during their quarterfinal at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, Jan. 22. (AP)

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