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Federer speeds into semi-finals

Federer didn't give Ivan Ljubicic a look in on Thursday as he sped past the Croatian Davis Cup hero and into the semi-finals of the Indian Wells Masters Series.

india Updated: Mar 17, 2006 12:10 IST

Roger Federer didn't give Ivan Ljubicic a look in on Thursday as he sped past the Croatian Davis Cup hero and into the semi-finals of the Indian Wells Masters Series.

Ljubicic had stretched the Swiss world number one to three sets in three of their five encounters last year, but Federer quickly sucked any suspense out of this one, needing just 66 minutes to post a 6-2, 6-3 victory.

"This was an excellent match for me," said Federer, who improved to 20-1 for the year. "Maybe the best of the season. Everything I really wanted to work worked."

Federer's best was too good for Ljubicic, the sixth seed who boasted a 20-2 record with two tournament titles of his own this year heading into the match.

"I didn't feel like he gave me too many chances out there," Ljubicic said. "I probably tried too hard, tried more than I'm doing every day, and that's never good. He was the one pushing me over the limits.

"When it's like that, it's very difficult to make a statement, to make a decent match."

Ljubicic had only one break opportunity in the entire match, and Federer saved it with an ace as he held to open the second set.

He did manage to save one match point against his serve in the penultimate game of the match, but couldn't do anything in the next as Federer finished it off with an ace.

"In the first set, I tried to play a fast game, I thought maybe that's the only chance I can trouble him a little bit," Ljubicic said. "But it was not the case."

In the second, he tried slowing things down, also to no avail.

"I stayed back a little on returns and tried to make a little more rallies instead of just ripping the ball," he said. "Of course, that didn't work either."

In the semis, Federer will face either Thailand's Paradorn Srichaphan or Finland's Jarkko Nieminen, who were due to face off in the night session.

Paradorn knocked out fourth-seeded Argentinian David Nalbandian to reach the quarter-finals, while Nieminen beat former world number one Marat Safin of Russia.

Top-seeded Belgian Justine Henin-Hardenne, who won the title in her last appearance here in 2004, booked a semi-final clash with fourth-seeded Russian Elena Dementieva.

Henin-Hardenne beat Gisela Dulko of Argentina 6-3, 6-2. She admitted she found it hard to get a rhythm in her first match against the Argentinian, but in the end her 29th-ranked opponent was overmatched.

Henin-Hardenne was never threatened on her serve and got the only break she needed in the opening set in the fourth game to lead 3-1.

She broke again to open the second set, and set herself up to serve for the match with another break for 5-2.

She said she was looking forward to facing Dementieva, who rallied for a 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory over No 8 Ana Ivanovic.

In the other women's semi-final on Friday, former world number one Martina Hingis was to take on third-seeded Russian Maria Sharapova.

The two have already met twice since Hingis came out of retirement in January, the "Swiss Miss" stunning the Russian teen en route to the final of the Pan Pacific in Tokyo before falling to her in Dubai.

The men's quarter-finals were to continue on Friday, with Russian Igor Andreev, who ousted third-seeded Andy Roddick in the fourth round, taking on the only American remaining in the draw, James Blake.

In the marquee night match, world number two Rafael Nadal, who missed the Australian Open recovering from a foot injury, faced Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis, who was a surprise finalist at the first Grand Slam of the year.

First Published: Mar 17, 2006 12:10 IST