Federer Qualifies For Final

Switzerland's Roger Federer defeated Andy Roddick & moved to Australian Open final and stay on course for a record-tying 14th Grand Slam title on Thursday.

The second seed absorbed Roddick's serve and dominated the rallies to take it 6-2, 7-5, 7-5, with arch-rival Rafael Nadal playing Fernando Verdasco in the all-Spanish second semifinal on Friday.

Federer, now in his 18th Grand Slam final, has not lost any of his three previous Australian Open title matches and continues his unbeaten record against Roddick in Major tournaments.

"I had a great start and that helped because I played really solid out there," he said. "I thought the level was high throughout the match. Andy played good too, so it was fun."

"People sort of forgot about him leading up to the Australian Open," Federer said of Nadal. "But he's showing why he's the best player in the world. I would love to play him in the final, that's for sure."

It was demoralising for Roddick, who came into the match revitalised by a change in coach but got off to an appalling start and argued with the chair umpire as the first set slipped past in 32 minutes.

Federer had the seventh seed on a string and he reeled off 12 straight points to take the second, breaking for 6-5 and serving out with grim precision for the two-set lead.

Roddick tangled again with the umpire when he swore loudly and received a code violation, and was left staggered when Federer dug himself out of trouble with a brilliant drop shot, lob and stop-volley to hold for 5-5.

The American was then guilty of a howler as he patted the ball to Federer's feet with the court begging, gifting the crucial break point which the Swiss converted with an unstoppable forehand before calmly serving out the win.

An ailing Federer lost in the semis here last year and was beaten in the Roland Garros and Wimbledon finals by Nadal, who ended his record 237-week stint as world number one.

But he rescued his season by winning his fifth US Open title to move to 13 Grand Slam victories, one fewer than American great Pete Sampras.

"This year I do feel mentally, and I'm obviously more healthy so that helps and I can really focus on playing well," he said.

"I'm really pleased with how I've played in this tournament because the draw was difficult and dangerous."

Federer beat Andreas Seppi, Evgeny Korolev and 2005 champion Marat Safin in the early rounds before fighting back from two sets down against Tomas Berdych.

He then thrashed Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro in the quarterfinals, winning 6-3, 6-0, 6-0 in his most comprehensive victory in the last eight of a Grand Slam.

"Right now is where I start playing my best," he said. "When it comes to the end of the tournament, that's where you should judge a great player not in the early rounds."

Federer also reached the semifinals at the previous five Australian Opens, winning in 2004, 2006 and 2007, and last failed to make the last eight in 2003.

He can join Roy Emerson, Andre Agassi, Jack Crawford and Ken Rosewall as the only men to have won four or more titles here.

Federer moves to 16-2 against Roddick, the former number one who won the 2003 US Open but has not reached a Grand Slam final since 2006.


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