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Federer powers into Australian Open final

Federer in action during his semifinal match against Andy Roddick

(Keystone)

Roger Federer has beaten Andy Roddick 6-2, 7-5, 7-5 in the semifinals of the Australian Open.

Second-seeded Federer, seeking his fourth Australian title, will face top-ranked Rafael Nadal on Sunday.

On Friday Nadal outlasted fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco 6-7, 6-4, 7-6, 6-7, 6-4 after the longest match in the tournament's history. Fans were riveted as the left-handed Davis Cup teammates went at each other for five hours and 14 minutes.

Federer, 27, who lost the French Open and Wimbledon finals to Nadal last year before beating Andy Murray for the US Open title, is aiming to equal Pete Sampras's grand slam record of 14 titles.

Roddick, who undertook a rigorous off-season training regime designed to help him beat Federer and Nadal, was in good form.

But Federer outplayed the seventh seed in every phase of the game. Ripping winners from all over the court and usually forcing Roddick to hit more than one good shot to win a point, he even had double the number of aces than the hard-serving American, 16-8.

"I served well in the first set and that gave me a lot of confidence," Federer said. "I was moving well and getting a lot of balls back and making it difficult for Andy to get the upper hand from the baseline. That was kind of what I was hoping for."

By the time Federer and Roddick were on court in the evening, temperatures had dropped to 33 degrees Celsius from 44.3 degrees in the afternoon – news reports called it Melbourne's hottest January day since 1939 – so the retractable roof was open.

That would seem to have given an edge to 26-year-old Roddick, who grew up in the heat of Texas and Florida. Against a hot Federer, however, it didn't matter. A behind-the-back hit right to the ballboy after a Roddick fault in the first game showed Federer's confidence.

Total control

Although Roddick won their last meeting, Federer held a 15-2 edge coming into the match.

"The last time I lost, so coming into this match there was a bit of pressure," Federer said.

It didn't show. Instead, this one played out like many of the Swiss star's previous victories.

Blunting Roddick's blistering serves, Federer broke twice in the first set. Adding to Roddick's frustration was a call that went against him as Federer served at 4-1.

A Federer shot was called out, but he successfully challenged. Chair umpire Enric Molina ruled that Roddick couldn't have reached the ball and gave the point to Federer. Roddick argued he stopped running when he heard the "out" call, and he had a running dialogue with Molina during several changeovers.

Pressure point

With both players holding easily in the second set, a tiebreaker loomed with Roddick serving at 5-5. Federer broke at love, then easily held with Roddick failing to get a serve return back in play.

After serving a double-fault at 2-2 in the third set, Roddick got a warning for an audible obscenity and told Molina: "I take back the apology."

Roddick served again at 5-5 in the third set, and Federer – who seems to come up with his best tennis under pressure – broke again. He easily held, finishing off the match with a forehand down the line: his 51st winner to just 15 unforced errors.

Should Nadal win on Friday, the Federer-Nadal grand slam domination will continue: only one of the past 15 grand slam tournaments has not been won by one of them. Set your alarm clocks for Sunday morning.

swissinfo, Thomas Stephens

Key facts

The Australian Open is one of four grand slam tournaments of the ATP circuit.
The others are the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open.
Australia's Rod Laver is the only man to win all four grand slam events in the same year (1969). Steffi Graf did it in 1988 (also winning the Olympic Gold for a "Golden Slam").
Federer has clinched three of the grand slam tournaments three times (2004, 2006 and 2007), but has never won the French Open.

end of infobox

Roger Federer

Age: 27
Match record: 620-150
Career singles titles: 57
Grand slam titles: 13 – Australian Open (2004, 2006, 2007), Wimbledon (2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007), US Open (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008)
Past six Australian Opens: He won the event in 2007, 2006 and 2004. He lost in the semi-finals in 2005 and 2008 and went out in the fourth round in 2003.

end of infobox

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