Federer Beats Roddick, Inches Closer Towards Sampras' Record

By: AP Email
By: AP Email

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) - Roger Federer moved within one victory of tying Pete Sampras' record of 14 Grand Slam titles by dominating Andy Roddick 6-2, 7-5, 7-5 Thursday to reach the Australian Open final.

Roddick, who undertook a rigorous offseason training regime designed to help him beat Federer and top-ranked Rafael Nadal, was in good form.

But the second-ranked Federer outplayed him in every phase of he 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 more 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."

Federer, seeking his fourth Australian title, will face the winner of Friday's semifinal between Nadal and fellow Spanish left-hander Fernando Verdasco.

"I don't have to wait to see who wins, I can start preparing for a lefty tonight," Federer said.

The women's final matchup was set earlier in the day. Serena Williams was calm, collected and cool - with the Rod Laver Arena roof closed to keep out Melbourne's oppressive heat wave - to end Olympic champion Elena Dementieva's 15-match winning streak with a 6-3, 6-4 victory.

All that stands between her and a 10th Grand Slam title is third-seeded Dinara Safina, who is hungry to take home her first major trophy to go along with the two that brother Marat Safin has earned. Safina ousted fellow Russian Vera Zvonareva 6-3, 7-6 (4) in the other semifinal. The winner Saturday also will rise to the No. 1 ranking.

By the time Federer and Roddick were on court in the evening, temperatures had dropped to 91 degrees from 112 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 Roddick, who grew up in the heat of Texas and Florida, an edge. Against a hot Federer, it didn't matter. A behind-the-back hit right to the ballboy after a Roddick fault in the first game was a dead giveaway.

Although Roddick won their last meeting, Federer held a 15-2 edge over him 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 gotten to 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.

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

"Let's not kid ourselves," Roddick said. "You're down two sets to him and scraping, trying to survive. I hit the ball pretty well. He just came up with shots when he needed to. That's what he does."

Roddick had 38 winners, only 18 unforced errors and two double faults.

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.

"Towards the end of the tournament, I think this is where you should judge a great player," Federer said.

Williams has a history of winning the Australian Open in odd-numbered years - 2003, 2005 and 2007 - but there was nothing odd about her victory in the semis.

She followed her traditional pattern of playing her way into form after struggling in earlier matches. She benefited from fourth-round opponent Victoria Azarenka retiring sick after winning the first set, and got a chance to recuperate when the roof was closed due to the heat Wednesday after she'd lost the first set in the quarterfinals against Russia's Svetlana Kuznetsova.

"I'm excited that I'm playing really consistent," said Williams, the reigning U.S. Open champion. "This whole Australia swing, I was just really struggling with my form, for whatever reason, 'cause I definitely put in the time, but it just didn't come together."

It certainly did against Dementieva, who beat her in their last three meetings and was coming off consecutive titles at two warm-up tournaments.

"I think she was very powerful today," the fourth-seeded Russian said. "I think I was maybe not aggressive enough and maybe I was playing not deep enough, which allowed her to be very aggressive and dictate the game."

Williams later was back on court to partner with sister Venus in a women's doubles match. Seeking their eighth Grand Slam title together, the sisters routed Australia's Casey Dellacqua and Italian Francesca Schiavone 6-0, 6-2 to reach the final.

Safina has yet to win a major, losing the 2008 French Open final to Ana Ivanovic in her best previous run. She lost to Williams in last year's U.S. Open semifinals.

Her older brother won the Australian title in 2005, the day after Williams beat then-No. 1 Lindsay Davenport in the women's final.

Safina was looking forward to giving him a belated birthday present. Safin turned 29 on Tuesday.

"Maybe now I have some money to buy him a present," she joked. "It's great that I can follow his steps. He was my idol. He's still my idol."

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

AP-NY-01-29-09 1152EST


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