Defending champion Federer into Brisbane semifinals

Brisbane :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 semifinals at the Brisbane International.

Federer delayed his opening match at the Australian Open warmup until the fifth day because of a flu-like illness and was playing Dimitrov in the quarterfinals on less than 24 hours rest.

His serve 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 semifinal 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 6-3 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 semifinals for the fourth straight year.