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  Thursday, 24 January, 2002, 11:46 GMT
Johansson wins epic battle
Thomas Johansson celebrates winning the first set of the semi-final
Johansson showed great spirit to win
T Johansson (Swe) bt J Novak (Cze) 7-6 0-6 4-6 6-3 6-4

Thomas Johansson has reached the final of the Australian Open after a thrilling encounter with Jiri Novak.

Johansson began well and triumphed on the tie-break in an evenly fought first set.

But for the second and third sets the Swede's form deserted him as Novak turned the game on its head.


For the whole match I was fighting to the end
Thomas Johansson
The 16th seed's game appeared to be in tatters but he staged a remarkable comeback to snatch victory.

"I hadn't played in a Grand Slam semi-final before and I was very tight but I held serve through to the tiebreaker," said Johansson.

And he was even prepared to shed some light on the reason for his dismal perfomance in the following two sets.

"Maybe I was a little relaxed after that and Jiri won the second set very quickly but for the whole match I was fighting to the end ," he added.

"I'm going to enjoy this victory and then prepare for Sunday's final."

Johansson was whitewashed in the second set as Novak levelled the game and the unseeded player charged into the lead when he took the third set.

The Czech Republic's Jiri Novak
Novak came back strongly in sets two and three
The 26-year-old began his recovery in the fifth game of the fourth set as he produced two top-class backhand returns to break Novak's serve.

This victory visibly lifted Johansson and he went on to break the Czech player again as he closed out the set to level the match.

However, Novak was equally determined and a tense fifth set went with serve until the final game.

Again, Johansson's strong returns handed him the opportunity of a break.

The gritty Novak saved three match points before finally capitulating as the Swede completed a stunning comeback.

Johansson will now face either Marat Safin or Tommy Haas in the final.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Sport's Richard Evans
"A blistering back court battle"
Sweden's Thomas Johansson
"I didn't expect too much before the tournament"
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