Roger Federer avenges loss to reach semifinal | india | Hindustan Times
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Roger Federer avenges loss to reach semifinal

The Swiss was handed the perfect chance to forge towards a 4th straight title win when he eased into the semis as former champion Lleyton Hewitt crashed out.

india Updated: Jul 06, 2006 11:40 IST

The last man to beat Roger Federer at Wimbledon became the latest to lose against him on Wednesday.

With a performance that was stellar even by his standards, Federer avenged a loss to Mario Ancic on the same Centre Court four years ago, winning 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 to reach his ninth consecutive Grand Slam semifinal.

"It was difficult, knowing he was the last guy to beat me here," Federer said. "I remember I was very sad after that match."

He was joined in the final four by two improbable semifinalists: Jonas Bjorkman of Sweden and Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus.

The 34-year-old Bjorkman became the oldest man to reach the Wimbledon semifinals since Jimmy Connors in 1987, beating Radek Stepanek 7-6 (3), 4-6, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (7), 6-4.

Baghdatis, who won a tour-level match on grass for the first time only last month, beat 2002 champion Lleyton Hewitt 6-1, 5-7, 7-6 (5), 6-2. Ancic was an 18-year-old qualifier making his Grand Slam debut when he defeated Federer in the first round in 2002.

Federer has since won the past three Wimbledon championships and 46 consecutive grass-court matches, and he needs two more victories for his eighth major title.

"I thought I played a terrific match," Federer said. "If I keep up this type of play, it'll be pretty good."

Only two rain delays - the first since the opening day of the tournament - slowed the progress of Federer, who has yet to lose a set through five rounds.

His opponent on Friday will be the unseeded Bjorkman, who lost his only other Grand Slam semifinal nine years ago at the US Open.

"I'm very emotional here - I just realized that I won," Bjorkman said moments after his match. "I didn't really believe that I had any semifinals left in me. It's an unbelievable feeling, a big surprise... a lot of Advil the last couple of weeks."

Baghdatis hit 53 winners and converted all seven of his break point chances to beat Hewitt. The only Cypriot to play in a major event, Baghdatis was the Australian Open runner-up to Federer in January and has climbed from 56th to 16th in the rankings this year.

"It's amazing," Baghdatis said. "It's just unbelievable emotions. I hope I'll keep going and feel those emotions again like Australia, and maybe even more."

He'll next play French Open champion Rafael Nadal or No. 22 Jarkko Nieminen. Their quarterfinal was postponed until Thursday because of fading light.

There was plenty of tennis on Court 2, where Daniel Nestor and Mark Knowles beat Simon Aspelin and Todd Perry 5-7, 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 23-21 over two days. At 6 hours, 9 minutes, it was longest doubles match in Grand Slam history and the longest match in Wimbledon history, singles or doubles.

In the women's semifinals on Thursday, 2004 champion Maria Sharapova will play No. 1 Amelie Mauresmo, and No. 2 Kim Clijsters will face No. 3 Justine Henin-Hardenne in the 20th career match between the Belgian rivals.

Sharapova's quarterfinal victory Tuesday drew a visit from a streaker, and before the seventh game of Federer's match, two fully clothed men came onto the court carrying rackets and balls.

One of them hit a shot before security guards approached, and the men departed as a smiling Federer watched.

Then his latest grass-court gem resumed.

Federer's shots consistently landed inches from a line, and he countered Ancic's serve-and-volley tactics by being aggressive himself. He came to the net behind one return while Ancic also moved forward, the result being a rare point-blank exchange of volleys that Federer won.

Ancic held his own in baseline rallies, winning 18- and 21-shot exchanges in the first set. But Federer coped well with Ancic's big serve, hitting some returns nearly as hard.

"I thought sometimes that I did some unbelievable shots," Ancic said. "I did exactly what I had to, and I was getting passed or (he was) getting some winners from nowhere. He played unbelievable. "He's just Roger. What can you say?"

Federer had 35 winners and 17 unforced errors, and he survived one shaky moment. Serving at 4-3 in the first set, he committed three uncharacteristically sloppy errors, including a double-fault that left him facing a break point for only the seventh time in the tournament.

He escaped and held with a service winner, and in the opening game of the second set, he literally brought Ancic to his knees. The Croat lunged in vain at the net to intercept a passing shot. Two points later, Federer passed Ancic again to break for 1-0.

Federer won 30 of 34 service points during one stretch, including 14 in a row. He did lose serve for the second time in the tournament, but the break came only after he took a 3-0 lead in the final set.

He erased another break point with a sharply angled forehand winner and held for 5-3, then closed the victory with his seventh ace.

"I definitely had a period where it was so good, it was just incredible," Federer said. "You get the feeling that you're absolutely in control."