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Feat of clay

Federer returns a shot during his semi-final match against Mirnyi on Saturday

(Keystone)

Swiss tennis star Roger Federer has overcome his supposed weakness on clay courts to reach the final of the Masters Series tournament in Hamburg.

Federer (ATP 14) brushed aside Belarus heavyweight Max Mirnyi (ATP 39) in straight sets (6-4, 6-4) on Saturday to book his first ever place in the final of a clay court tournament.

Beating Mirnyi in less than an hour and a half, the Swiss number one earned his second crack at a Masters Series tournament title. Two months ago, Federer reached the same stage on the hardcourts of Miami only to lose in four sets to American star Andre Agassi.

Doubts about Federer's ability on clay resurfaced this month following his early exits from the two previous competitions in Rome and Monte Carlo.

However the 20-year-old from Basel now appears to have proved his doubters wrong in Hamburg with performances that have included wins over Brazilian world number seven Gustavo Kuerten and Ecuadorian clay-court specialist Nicolas Lapentti.

"Before this week I really didn't expect to reach the final," Federer said after Saturday's match.

Federer will now go on to meet Russian sixth seed Marat Safin (ATP 5) in Sunday's final.

Safin booked his place on court opposite Federer after defeating Spain's Tommy Robredo (6-2, 4-2) in Saturday's other semi-final.

Safin's Swiss opponent said he knew he would be in for a tough final tie.

"Now I am one match away from the title and I want to win it, although it will be tough against Safin," Federer said.

"But it helps my confidence that I've beaten him twice," he added.

swissinfo with agencies


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