MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA, JAN. 25 (FRIDAY) -- Ivan Lendl pulled off a remarkable escape against Stefan Edberg today, keeping alive his dream of winning the Australian Open for the third straight year.
Edberg squandered two match points in the fourth set -- one with a double fault -- then Lendl staged a fighting comeback to win, 6-4, 5-7, 3-6, 7-6 (7-3), 6-4.
He will be seeking the ninth Grand Slam title of his career in Sunday's final. In last year's title match, Lendl won when Edberg had to retire with a stomach injury.
The second semifinal was later today between second-seeded Boris Becker and Patrick McEnroe, 24, John's younger brother.
The women's final will be played on Saturday. In Thursday's semifinals, No. 2 Monica Seles survived No. 3 Mary Joe Fernandez over 2 hours 38 minutes, 6-3, 0-6, 9-7, saving a match point. She'll meet No. 10 Jana Novotna, who had an easy time with No. 6 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, 6-2, 6-4. Novotna knocked off Steffi Graf in the quarterfinals.
Lendl took just over four hours to wear down Edberg. He improved as the match progressed, while Edberg appeared to tighten up on the key points.
The top-ranked Swede served 11 double faults. He had been chasing the fifth Grand Slam title of his career.
"I was in control. It's disappointing when you're so close to winning a match and then lose it," Edberg said. "I sort of lost my rhythm and hit too many double faults.
Lendl turned the match around after being given a code of conduct warning for ball abuse after dropping his serve in the ninth game of the fourth set. He swatted the ball high into the air after Edberg completed the break with a backhand passing shot down the line.
Edberg had his two match points in the next game but lost both -- the first on a netted backhand volley, the second on a double fault. Lendl kept cool and eventually forced the set to a tiebreaker, which he won, 7-3.
Lendl got the crucial break at 3-2 in the final set -- and never allowed Edberg back into contention.
"I felt Stefan was a little slower in the fifth set," said Lendl, who prides himself on his fitness and ability to play long matches.
He served and volleyed with poise and frequently passed Edberg when the Swede advanced to the net. Lendl improved to 12-9 against Edberg.
Edberg conceded only six points on serve in the first set, but still lost it as Lendl broke him in the ninth game.
The second set went on serve until Edberg broke in the 12th game after Lendl slid a backhand passing shot wide.
At that point, Edberg appeared in command. His ground strokes flowed and he served and volleyed effectively.
Lendl became flustered by line calls that went against him and slammed his racket in frustration after dropping serve for the second time -- but in the end his nerve held.
"The job is not done yet," Lendl said. "I didn't come here to beat Stefan. I came to win the tournament."
On Thursday, Seles, fast closing in on Graf's top spot in the rankings, tiptoed out of big trouble against Fernandez.
Fernandez, who lost to Graf in last year's final, played superbly in the second set but blew the match on key points in the first and third sets.
Two straight double faults and a forehand long in the eighth game cost her the first set. In the third set, leading 6-5, she held match point at 30-40 on Seles' serve.
Fernandez had the winner on her racket, a backhand from the baseline she could have put down the line to end it, but she hit it tentatively. The ball lazily landed in the net, giving Seles deuce and allowing her back in.
"I had the opportunity to win it," Fernandez said ruefully. "Those are tough ones to lose."