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Federer and Wawrinka write tennis history

Federer dodges a shot from Wawrinka during their previous encounter, in Stockholm Reuters

Swiss tennis players Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka will meet in Melbourne on Tuesday in the first all-Swiss Grand Slam quarterfinal.

For once, the Swiss front pages were filled with pictures of a tennis player who wasn’t Federer, with tabloid Blick unable to resist pointing out this was “something the Germans and Austrians can only dream about!”

On Sunday, Federer, aiming to become the first man to win five Australian Open titles, equalled Jimmy Connors’ mark for consecutive grand slam quarterfinal appearances. The 29-year-old second seed beat Tommy Robredo 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 and has now reached the quarterfinals at 27 majors in a row since 2004.

He’ll next play Wawrinka, aged 25 and seeded 19th, in the first all-Swiss quarterfinal at a major in the Open era (post-1968). Action begins at the Rod Laver Arena not before 2.30am Swiss time.

The two friends have played each other seven times, with Wawrinka’s solitary win coming in Monaco in 2009. The only time they have met in a Grand Slam event was on the clay courts of Paris last year. Federer won the fourth-round match in straight sets.

But Wawrinka said things were different in Melbourne. “I’m playing much better here. It will be our first best-of-five duel on a hard surface.”

Under no illusion

There’s little debate about who is favourite, but Wawrinka has had an impressive run to the quarterfinals. He beat 12th seed Gaël Monfils in the third-round and eighth seed Andy Roddick in the fourth and has yet to lose a set.

Federer on the other hand had a sweaty five-set second-round encounter with Gilles Simon and he also lost a set to Robredo.

What’s more, Wawrinka, despite his off-court problems – Swiss media recently reported that he had walked out on his wife and 11-month-old daughter to focus on his tennis – on-court he is unbeaten in 2011, winning the Chennai Open on January 9.

“I certainly don’t think I’m the favourite,” Wawrinka admitted. “People who claim that I’m possibly playing better than Federer forget that he’s playing in his 27th quarterfinal in a row. And normally he plays his best tennis in the later rounds of grand slam events. I’m under no illusion: it’s going to be a really difficult match for me.”

He added that although his coach Peter Lundgren previously worked with Federer – on and off for seven years before they parted at the end of 2003 – “[Lundgren] doesn’t have a key to beating him – as proved by my loss to Roger the last time we played, in Stockholm [in October]”.

Wawrinka said Tuesday’s result would depend on his serve. “I’ll need to serve as well as I did [against Roddick] to have a chance. But I know that if Roger plays at his best, he’ll be extremely hard to beat.”

Two-horse race

Indeed the bookies make Federer the comfortable favourite against Wawrinka at 1-5 on (a successful five-franc bet will net you only one franc, plus your five-franc stake). But if you fancy Wawrinka’s chances, the longest odds are around 3.5-1 (put one franc on and get back SFr3.50 plus your stake).

Overall it’s a two-horse race between Rafael Nadal and Federer. The Spaniard is slightly favoured by bookmakers, at just under 2-1. Wawrinka’s chances of lifting the trophy on Sunday are 40-1, compared with 100-1 a week ago.

Roddick said he’d be stupid not to bet on Federer in the all-Swiss match. “But Wawrinka put on a great performance against me. He played really well and completely outplayed me.”

Why does he back Federer? “Because Federer will create a lot more chances on Wawrinka’s serve than I did.”

“Sweating bullets”

Wawrinka, who was born in Lausanne and has a career high ranking of nine (in June 2008), has never reached the semifinal of a grand slam event.

The highlight of his career – so far – was winning gold in the doubles at the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008 – alongside Roger Federer.

One of the most memorable scenes from Beijing was Wawrinka lying on the ground after the win with Federer leaning over him and rubbing his hands – “because Stan’s so hot”, as Federer later explained.

“We shared some great moments in Beijing. We’ll never forget those Games,” Wawrinka said. “But the fact that he’s my friend won’t change my approach to the match in the slightest. On Tuesday night on the court, it’ll be every man for himself!”

For his part, Federer admitted he’d had a tough first week. “It’s a lot of hard work. I’m sweating bullets right now,” he said after beating Robredo.

“I’m excited to be in the next round. I’m in another quarterfinal. Got all the chances to make it to the semis again. So I’m very pleased.”

The quarterfinal between Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka will be the sixth all-Swiss Grand Slam match:

1986 Wimbledon (second round): J.Hlasek def. C.Mezzadri 3:6, 6:4, 7:5, 6:1.

1994 Melbourne (second round): M.Rosset def. J.Hlasek 6:4, 7:6, 3:6, 6:2.

1996 Roland-Garros (third round): M.Rosset def. J.Hlasek 6:4, 6:4, 6:1.

2000 Roland-Garros (third round): R.Federer def. M.Kratochvil 7:6, 6:4, 2:6, 6:7, 8:6.

2010 Roland-Garros (quarterfinal): R.Federer def. S.Wawrinka 6:3, 7:6, 6:2.

Roger Federer (seeded 2)

First Round _ def. Lukas Lacko, 6-1, 6-1, 6-3.

Second Round _ def. Gilles Simon, 6-2, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3.

Third Round _ def. Xavier Malisse, 6-3, 6-3, 6-1.

Fourth Round _ def. Tommy Robredo, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.

Quarterfinals _ vs. Stanislas Wawrinka (19).

Stanislas Wawrinka (seeded 19)

First Round _ def. Teymuraz Gabashvili, 7-6 (3), 6-4, 6-4.

Second Round _ def. Grigor Dimitrov, 7-5, 6-3, 6-3.

Third Round _ def. Gael Monfils (12), 7-6 (4), 6-2, 6-3.

Fourth Round _ def. Andy Roddick (8), 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.

Quarterfinals _ vs. Roger Federer (2).

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR