When Eric Butorac read the men's doubles draw to see he and Raven Klaasen would lock horns with Australian greats Pat Rafter and Lleyton Hewitt in the first round, he had to read it three times to check his eyes weren’t failing him.
Rafter had been retired from the game for more than a decade but had agreed to partner Hewitt for a one-off crack at the men’s doubles.
The American-South African duo won that match in straight sets before going on to upset 15-time Grand Slam doubles title greats Bob and Mike Bryan.
Now the unseeded pair stands one match from their first Grand Slam title after dominating major-winning veterans Daniel Nestor and Nedad Zimonjic 6-2 6-4 on Thursday.
“We put in a lot of work the past month in Brisbane and Auckland. You wouldn’t want it on paper but we got to play on the showcourts and it’s been a dream run for us,” 32-year-old Butorac said after the semifinal win.
For South African Klaasen, it was a bolt from the blue. His previous best result in Grand Slam doubles was a third round showing at the 2012 US Open.
“It was a rocky start to this relationship. He wasn’t very impressed the first time he saw me play,” Klaasen said. “It took him another year to come round to wanting to play together. This was a lot of fun playing before this crowd.”
The significance of reaching his first major final had already sunk in for Butorac.
“(This is) something that you think about when you’re a kid (watching) television. When you’re walking past the photos of past champions to get out here I looked to Raven and said ‘if this doesn’t give you goosebumps, I don’t know what will’,” he said.
The pair will meet Polish-Swedish duo Lucasz Kubot and Robert Lindstedt for the title.
The 14th seeds beat French 13th seeds Michael Llodra and Nicolas Mahut in the second semifinal 6-4 6-7(12) 6-3, steadying to take the match having let five match points slip in a see-saw second set.
For 36-year-old Lindstedt, it represents a fourth chance at Grand Slam glory having fallen at the final hurdle previously with Horia Tecau three times (2010, 2011, 2012) at Wimbledon.
“That’s the point. I don’t know what it takes, I’ve lost all my finals,” Lindstedt joked. “I’ve got to do something new, go out and drink tonight or something.
“It would mean the world to me (to win). I work pretty hard at what I do. I killed myself in the off season because this is the goal we put to ourselves.”
Either way two first-time Grand Slam champions will be crowned after the men’s doubles decider on Saturday night.