Roger Federer’s dream of winning successive titles at the Australian Open has ended in the semi-finals at the hands of Russia’s Marat Safin.
In an epic five-set struggle, the Swiss world number one suffered his first defeat in 27 matches, losing 7-5, 4-6, 7-5, 6-7 (6-8), 9-7.
Federer had been unbeaten since losing in the second round of the Olympics in Athens in August.
He was bidding to become the first player on the ATP tour to capture three straight Grand Slam titles since Pete Sampras in 1993-94.
It was sweet revenge for Safin who lost to the Swiss player in straight sets in last year’s final.
But the Russian had words of praise for his opponent after the match.
"It's like a brain fight against... Federer," said Safin.
"I think we [both] played the best we could and I couldn't give any more than that."
Federer appeared to have the match in the bag, leading two sets to one and serving for the match at 6-5 in the fourth-set tiebreak.
But the Russian hit back to take the set and level the match. During a long break before the start of the fifth set, Federer received treatment on his lower back and right arm.
Down a break at 4-5 in the fifth set, Federer saved two match points before breaking back to level the match 5-5.
The Swiss went on to save a further four match points before losing 9-7 in the fifth set.
Speaking after the match, the defending champion refused to use the pain in his right arm as an excuse for his defeat.
“There’s no injury. It was troubling me a bit, but that’s all. It felt a lot better in the fifth set and it will be gone tomorrow,” he said.
“I haven’t played in that many great matches like this one. To lose when one has had a match point always hurts.”
Prior to the semi-final, which lasted four hours and 28 minutes, Federer hadn't dropped a set all tournament.
Safin, runner-up in two of the past three Australian Opens, will play Lleyton Hewitt in Sunday's final.
swissinfo with agencies
It was the first time in 25 matches that the Swiss lost to a player in the top ten.
That record dated back to October 2003.
Last year Federer won 11 tournaments, including the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open.
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