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Friday, January 30, 2009

Sublime Roger Federer eases into final

Roger Federer strolled into the final of the Australian Open with a straight sets win over Andy Roddick 6-2 7-5 7-5.

The Swiss world number two hit 11 forehand winners in the opening set as he broke his American opponent twice.

Roddick finally found his range with his serve but Federer matched him and broke in the 11th game of the next two sets before closing out the win.

Federer takes on the winner of Friday's semi-final between Rafael Nadal and Fernando Verdasco in Sunday's final.

It will be Federer's 18th Grand Slam final, one short of Ivan Lendl's record of 19, and gives him the opportunity to draw level with Pete Sampras' mark of 14 major titles.

"I didn't know I reached my 18th final. People forget about Ivan and how great he was," said the 27-year-old.

"He had an unbelievable career and it's nice to be getting close to him."

Federer has now won 16 of his 18 meetings with Roddick.

"Andy's been playing really playing well so I knew I had a tough match ahead of me," he said.

"I had a lot of confidence on my serve and I thought I played really well tonight.

"I feel great this time around... and that is why I think I am moving well and playing better."

Roddick has been reaping the benefits of a tough pre-season training regime under new coach Larry Stefanki, reaching his fourth semi-final in Melbourne for the loss of two sets.

But he was outplayed on Thursday, with Federer even recording twice as many aces as the big-serving American.

"I hit the ball pretty well. If you look at his stats for the match, both of us had pretty good stats," said a disconsolate Roddick.

"He just came up with shots when he needed to. That's what he does."

The temperature, which had earlier hit 44C, dropped enough for organisers to re-open the roof on Rod Laver Arena and Federer - as usual - thrived in the evening conditions.

The writing was on the wall as early as the third game when the Swiss broke serve with a trademark forehand down the line.

He completed a double break in the American's next service game and the umpire bore the brunt of Roddick's frustration.

Federer correctly challenged a call on the baseline, but Eric Molina decided it would have been a clean winner and gave the point to the world number two instead of replaying it.

A sublime crosscourt forehand saw Federer open a 5-1 lead and Roddick continued his dialogue with the umpire as they changed ends at 5-2 but Federer kept his focus to wrap up the set.

The second set went with serve for the first 10 games with Roddick sending down six aces to Federer's eight.

But Roddick dumped a shot into the net in his sixth service game and Federer turned the screw with another forehand down the line to open up three break points.

A faltering Roddick sent a forehand into the net and put up little resistance as Federer then held to love to close out the second set.

The American's frustration began to boil over again at the start of set three with several audible obscenities uttered before Molina finally handed him an official warning in game five.

Roddick, who had already saved two break points, cried out after serving a double fault, but the umpire's reprimand appeared to focus his mind as served out the game and then held with ease in his next to open a 4-3 lead.

Federer powered back with a dominant service game of his own before opening up a 0-30 lead on Roddick's serve, but the American dug deep and took advantage of a couple of wayward shots to hold.

However, Roddick was broken again in his next service game. He fought back from 15-40 down and saved a third break point, but played a poor drop shot which Federer put away.

And the world number two completed victory with yet another forehand winner on his first match point.

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