“It’s awesome, it really is,” Hewitt said after downing the second seed. “I would have given anything to be in this position, to have an opportunity to play one match for the title here in Melbourne.

“Now part of that dream’s come true. I get an opportunity Sunday night.”

Only Marat Safin stands between Hewitt and his dream of becoming the first Australian to win the men’s title since 1976.

The Russian, twice a runner-up, beat world number one Roger Federer on Thursday and Hewitt knows he faces a battle against the fourth seed.

“Marat’s a top player, he’s got a lot of firepower and a lot of weapons out there,” Hewitt said. “He’s got all the shots. You know, he’s got a massive serve, he’s got a big forehand, backhand, he moves well for a big guy.”

American Roddick had dominated third seed Hewitt with his heavy service game in the opening two sets, crashing down 23 of the 31 aces he served in the match, but eventually he crumbled as Hewitt stood firm.

“You know, I’m mad,” Roddick said. “I felt like I was in there with a shot. To lose two breakers … I’m normally pretty money in those. It’s disappointing.”

Hewitt, who survived two tough five-set matches to reach the semi-finals, absorbed everything Roddick threw at him and gradually wore the American down with his superior court coverage, groundstrokes and never-say-die attitude.

The Australian, whose win lifts him to number two in the world, sank to his knees with his arms raised to wild cheers from the Rod Laver Arena centre court crowd when a Roddick backhand sailed long on the final point after two hours and 54 minutes.

Hewitt had never made it past the fourth round at Melbourne Park since he began as a 15-year-old qualifier in 1997 and is now bidding to become the first Australian to win the men’s title since Mark Edmondson beat John Newcombe 29 years ago.

Winner of the US Open in 2001 and Wimbledon in 2002, Hewitt is the first Australian to reach the final since Pat Cash in 1987 at Kooyong and again in 1988 at Melbourne Park.

Roddick, last year’s Wimbledon runner-up, began strongly against a subdued Hewitt and grabbed an early break in the second game as the local favourite grumbled about a bad line call.

The American then revealed his match plan by slamming six aces past Hewitt to serve out the first set, even risking his 200 kph-plus bombs on second serves.

Roddick added four straight aces to hold serve in the second game of the second set, apparently intent on battering Hewitt into submission.

But instead of crashing through, Roddick crashed, with the momentum shifting as Hewitt clung on to his own serve to force a tiebreak in the second set.

Hewitt turned the tables on Roddick and brought up set point with an ace of his own and a backhand error by Roddick gave the Australian the tiebreak 7-3.

Hewitt handed Roddick an early chance in the third set, gifting the American a service break with three double faults.

Roddick raced to a 4-1 lead but again the Australian scrambled back, snaring his own service break for the first time in the match on a Roddick double fault in the seventh game.

Roddick complained bitterly to chair umpire Andreas Egli that someone in the crowd had twice yelled out while he was serving.

“It just took one jackass to yell out,” Roddick said later.

Hewitt again dominated the third-set tiebreak, whipping a backhand past a stranded Roddick to claim it 7-4.

The fourth set went all Hewitt’s way as a dispirited Roddick dropped serve twice in the second and fifth games, the first time with a double fault as his serve was all but blunted.

Roddick finished the match with nine double faults but was also let down by poor volleying, winning only 18 of the 32 points he played at the net.