Federer into Brisbane semi-finals, Azarenka in final

Federer's serves in the first set was almost flawless, dropping just two points, and he appeared to be on course with break-point chances for another straight-set victory over the young Bulgarian sometimes likened to him because of their similar styles before Dimitrov rallied.

Roger Federer celebrates after winning his match against Grigor Dimitrov.   -  Reuters

Roger Federer overcame a lingering sickness to hold off Grigor Dimitrov 6-4, 6-7 (4), 6-4 on Friday and take his title defense into the semi-finals at the Brisbane International. Federer delayed his opening match at the Australian Open warm-up until the fifth day because of a flu-like illness and was playing Dimitrov in the quarter-finals on less than 24 hours rest.

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His serves in the first set was almost flawless, dropping just two points, and he appeared to be on course with break-point chances for another straight-set victory over the young Bulgarian sometimes likened to him because of their similar styles before Dimitrov rallied.

After wasting a chance to serve for the second set in a nervous 10th game, Dimitrov dominated the tiebreaker and forced a decider.

Federer, after showing signs of fatigue in the second set, took a quick break before the third, and then went on a roll to set up three match points in the ninth game. Again Dimitrov rallied, winning five consecutive points and forcing Federer to serve it out which the 17-time major winner duly did.

By holding off Dimitrov, who is 10 years his junior, Federer set up a meeting with 22-year-old Dominic Thiem, the youngest player in the top 20.

Thiem beat third-seeded Marin Cilic 2-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4. The other semi-final match will feature 2015 finalist Milos Raonic against Bernard Tomic.

Tomic ended Kei Nishikori’s streak of semifinal appearances at the Brisbane International with a 6-3, 1-6, 6- win, his first over a top 10 player on home soil.

Tomic fired nine aces in the first set and broke in the eighth game, but Nishikori, the 2014 U.S. Open finalist, won five straight games in the second to level the match and maintain his hopes of reaching the Brisbane semi-finals for the fourth straight year.

After an exchange of breaks early in the third, Tomic clinched it on his first match point, avenging a loss to Nishikori last year.

“That was very, very special to me,” Tomic said. “Last year, unfortunately, I lost very comfortably to Kei, and today played very different.”

Raonic relied on his big serve to dictate a 6-4, 6-4 win over world number 78-ranked Lucas Pouille.

On the women’s side, fourth-seeded Angelique Kerber moved into the final by beating Carla Suarez Navarro 6-2, 6-3.

Two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka and US qualifier Samantha Crawford played the other semi-final match.

In Auckland, Julia Goerges reached her sixth WTA final and her first in four years when she beat qualifier Tamira Paszek 6-4, 6-2 in the ASB Classic semi-finals.

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Goerges, ranked 50th, last reached a final in Dubai in 2012 when her ranking peaked at world number 15.

Sloane Stephens was leading 5-2 in the first set of the other semi-final match against third-seeded Caroline Wozniacki when rain halted play, forcing it to be postponed to Saturday.

At the Hopman Cup in Perth, Andy Murray and Heather Watson each had 6-3, 6-4 singles wins over German opponents Alexander Zverev and Sabine Lisicki, and combined to win the mixed doubles by the same margin to secure a 3-0 win that kept Britain in contention for Saturday’s final.

The Australia Green team can seal a spot in the final against Ukraine with a win over France late Friday, and Nick Kyrgios gave the home team a 1-0 lead when he beat Kenny De Schepper 6-4, 6-4.