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Federer reaches Australian Open final

india Updated: Jan 25, 2007 23:14 IST

Top-ranked Roger Federer routed Andy Roddick 6-4, 6-0, 6-2 on Thursday to advance to the Australian Open final.

Roddick had hoped that his net-charging tactics, implemented by new coach Jimmy Connors after Wimbledon last year, would help him close the gap with Federer. He beat the Swiss star at an exhibition tournament less than two weeks ago.

But after looking vulnerable in some of his earlier matches here, Federer was virtually untouchable as he reached his seventh consecutive Grand Slam final.

He ran off 11 consecutive games against sixth-seeded Roddick. Seeking his 10th Grand Slam title, he blunted Roddick's powerful serve and whipped passing shots seemingly at will.

"I had one of these days when everything worked, I was unbeatable," Federer said.

"It's just unreal. I am shocked myself, I don't know what to say. The tournament is not even over yet. Let me do it one more time."

Roddick, who often stared at Federer as if he couldn't believe what he was seeing, won only nine of his 31 approaches to the net, and had only 11 winners. Federer had 45 winners and just 12 unforced errors.

It got so bad that Roddick got a huge ovation after whacking one of his few winners, then another when he held serve to end Federer's 11-game streak.

Federer yielded only six points in the second set to Roddick, who tried to bash a ball into the air after falling behind 5-0, only to lose his grip on the racket and toss it toward the side of the court, where it hit an Associated Press photographer on the knee. Roddick apologized and received a conduct warning from the chair umpire.

Federer will play the winner of Friday's semifinal between 10th-seeded Fernando Gonzalez and No. 12 Tommy Haas.

Serena Williams earlier proved her doubters wrong. Unseeded after an injury-plagued 2006 that limited her to four tournaments, the former world No. 1 reached her first Grand Slam final in two years on Thursday, beating Nicole Vaidisova 7-6 (5), 6-4 to reach the women's final.

Standing in the way of an eighth Grand Slam title - she already has two here- is top seed Maria Sharapova.

Sharapova turned her semifinal against No. 4 Kim Clijsters into an Australian farewell match for the 23-year-old Belgian, who is retiring at the end of the year, with a 6-4, 6-2 victory.

Williams and Sharapova are 2-2 in head-to-heads. Williams won their last encounter after saving match points in the semifinals here two years ago before going on to win the title. Ranked No. 81 coming into the tournament after dropping out of the top 100 last year while dealing with a bad knee, Williams guaranteed herself a return to the top 20.

"I can't believe it," she said. "That's awesome. I'm like a chameleon. I can kind of change and get my game going to whatever the situation is. If I play well, which I don't think I've even reached yet at all in this tournament ... it's really hard for anyone on the women's tour to beat me."

Sharapova certainly isn't taking Williams lightly. "I'm going to be playing against a player that didn't really expect too much coming into this tournament," she said. "She's playing some really good tennis. I think she has nothing to lose going into the match. Those are always dangerous opponents.

" Williams sprinted ahead 4-0 in the tiebreaker, then doubled-faulted on consecutive points as Vaidisova leveled at 5-5. Grunting louder with each shot, Williams whacked a backhand cross-court winner for set point, then growled loudly when Vaidisova then hit a forehand into the net.

Williams ran off four straight games to pull ahead 5-1 in the second set. A quick finish seemed certain.

Then came the comeback that fell just short.

Vaidisova broke Williams as she served for the match to pull within 3-5, then fell behind 0-40 for triple match point in the next game. The Czech fought back to deuce, fended off another match point, then held to a thunderous ovation.

"I almost did a gagarooney there," said Williams, explaining: "Basically, you know gagging."

Serving again to finish it off, Williams had match point No. 5 at 40-30, only to see Vaidisova whip a backhand crosscourt winner on the line. Williams thought the ball was out and started to celebrate, then clearly wanted to question the no-call but had no challenges left after using up her allotment earlier. Her 10th ace of the match, on a second serve, set up match point No. 6, and Williams finally cashed this one, throwing her hands in the air and leaning back to look at the sky.

"She's definitely a great champ," Vaidisova said. "She played the tight points very well. I had my opportunities. I didn't use them. That was the big difference. I was trying to go for a winner or easy shot too early."

Sharapova, last year's U.S. Open, wasn't at the top of her game either, committing eight double faults, missing badly on a number of easy putaways and finishing with six more unforced errors (33) than winners (27). But she was at her best under pressure, fending off seven break points in the second set.

"I felt like I played a much better match all around today," Sharapova said. "Couldn't quite get the serve and return together in the beginning. But overall I was really focused. I did the right things at the right time. I was patient when I had to be patient, played a smart game."

Clijsters got two standing ovations as she said goodbye to Rod Laver Arena.

"I have so many great memories from here," she said. "I'm going to come back tomorrow and take my time to say goodbye to everybody, just get everybody's e-mail address, number."

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