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Fine-tuned Federer reaches Kooyong final

Roger Federer honed his razor-sharp tennis to near-perfection with a 6-3, 7-6 (7/2) defeat of Russian rival Marat Safin.

india Updated: Jan 11, 2007 21:18 IST

Roger Federer honed his razor-sharp tennis to near-perfection on Thursday as he stormed into the final of the Kooyong Classic with a 6-3, 7-6 (7/2) defeat of Russian rival Marat Safin.

The contest, which lasted just over an hour, was a sharp contrast to the laboured victory the world No 1 earned just 24 hours earlier, requiring three tiebreakers to get past Radek Stepanek.

Streaky Russian Safin looms as a potential spoiler for Federer's chances at a second consecutive Australian Open title when the first major of the season begins on Monday at Melbourne Park.

Before a knee injury compromised almost a year of his season from mid-2005, former world No 1 Safin lifted the 2005 Australian Open title, defeating the Swiss in a tight semi-final.

The elite eight-man Kooyong tune-up is considered ideal preparation for the Grand Slam with its guarantee of matches on the Rebound Ace surface.

Federer polished his lethal, silky-smooth game in a swirling wind, a challenge which he gleefully accepted.

"There's always winds at Kooyong," said the holder of a dozen titles from 2006. "I warmed up on Rod Laver (showcourt at Melbourne Park) this morning and there was no wind.

"Then I came here and Marat said he trained only 15 minutes because he got frustrated with the wind.

"It's kind of good, more wind here makes the Australian Open probably easier to play.

"We had some big hitting from the baseline. With Marat, you're going to get the rhythm because he's such a good ball striker. I definitely served better and just tightened up the game a bit. I was really happy."

Federer will aim for his second Kooyong title on Saturday when he plays the winner from a Friday contest between American Andy Roddick and Briton Andy Murray.

"For rhythm, it would be better to play Murray but for prestige, it would be Roddick," said Federer, adding: "I practised with both of them last week."

In a consolation round match, Croatian Ivan Ljubicic handed German Tommy Haas a second defeat at the event 7-6 (7-5), 6-4.

First Published: Jan 11, 2007 13:14 IST