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Federer hammers out ominous warning

'Federer Express' gathered momentum as he reached the semi-finals in defence of his title at the Qatar Open.

tennis Updated: Jan 06, 2006 22:47 IST

Roger Federer's preparation for an attempt at recapturing the Australian Open title gathered momentum as he reached the semi-finals in defence of his title at the Qatar Open.

The world number one from Switzerland showed signs of developing rhythm and improving movement during a 6-4, 6-3 win over Marcos Baghdatis, the first Cypriot to compete on the ATP Tour.

"I'm pleased with the way I played," said Federer.

"He's a good player and a tough one to beat. This was a dangerous match I thought. From the start I knew that, and to get through comfortably is a good sign."

Though Federer still played with his right ankle strapped, he several times moved smartly to project inside-out forehand drives from the backhand side, and once hit a spectular backhand smash while moving rapidly backwards for a topspin lob. There were, however, times when the champion appeared to coast, though he clearly attempted to increase the pressure when Baghdatis was serving to save first set at 4-5.

During this phase Federer berated himself loudly when he failed to convert two set points, calling himself an "idiot", though it delayed the breakthrough only briefly.

Baghdatis nevertheless proved himself a speedy mover, capable of counter-attacking from anywhere, and once launched a first serve so fast that it struck a line judge on the head.

However, another well-timed push by Federer near the end of the second set brought a similar outcome to the first, and he finished the match with a neatly angled net attack.

The US-based German beat Russia's Mikhail Youzhny 6-4 6-0, increasingly outplaying an opponent ranked two places above him with a dashing and impressively heavyweight performance.

It followed Haas' well-deserved win the previous day over Great Britain's Tim Henman, and suggested that changes in his private life, coaching arrangements and fitness levels are having a significant effect on his game.

The other semi-final will be between Gael Monfils, the 19-year-old Frenchman, and the surprise survivor Filippo Volandri.

The Italian, who was appearing in his first ATP quarter-final on hard courts, upset Nikolay Davydenko, the second-seeded Russian, 6-3, 6-4.

It also meant that all three Russians can now fly on to Australia because the athletic progress of the seventh-seeded Monfils came in straight sets at the expense of Dmitri Tursunov.

First Published: Jan 06, 2006 22:47 IST