Federer too sharp for Nicolas Kiefer

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STRETCHED? HARDLY! German Nicolas Kiefer was no match for the world No. 1 Roger Federer. Photo: AP
STRETCHED? HARDLY! German Nicolas Kiefer was no match for the world No. 1 Roger Federer. Photo: AP

Legend Laver present at the arenaHenin to meet Mauresmo in Saturday's final

MELBOURNE: Top-seeded Roger Federer advanced to the Australian Open final with a 6-3, 5-7, 6-0, 6-2 win on Friday over No. 21 Nicolas Kiefer.

Federer was sharp - and occasionally brilliant - in beating the German for the seventh consecutive time. The Swiss star will now face heavy underdog Marcos Baghdatis on Sunday as he seeks his seventh Grand Slam title.

Serving notice early that Kiefer would get no easy points, Federer broke for the only time he needed in the first set to go up 3-1, at one point sprinting in from the baseline for a drop shot and flicking a backhand around the net post and down the line for a clean winner.

In the same game, Federer reached another drop and sent a lob over Kiefer's head that he tracked down, but smacked well long.

Kiefer levelled the match by breaking Federer as he served at 5-6 in the second set. He wasted his first opportunity with a weak forehand into the net, but Federer sliced a backhand just wide on the next.

Regaining control

Implacable as usual, Federer stepped up his game and zipped through the third set, committing only two unforced errors - after 26 in the first two sets - to retake control. With Federer serving at 5-0, Kiefer saw his only break point vanish on a shot that was called long, but that TV replays showed was on the line.

Kiefer held serve to start the final set, only to see Federer run off five straight games. Kiefer saved two match points while serving at 1-5, then a third as Federer served in the next game. Federer finished it off with a serve that Kiefer whacked into the net.

"I really turned it up when I had to," said Federer.

Swiss flag T-shirts were scattered about Rod Laver Arena, and the crowd was clearly behind Federer against the testy Kiefer, who repeatedly questioned calls.

He was fined earlier in the tournament for foul language, and was warned twice for obscenities in the quarterfinals.

Legend's presence

In the crowd was Laver himself. Federer shared a courtesy car with him at the U.S. Open a couple of years ago, but said he didn't speak to the 67-year-old Australian left-hander, who won all four majors in one year twice and finished with 11 Grand Slam singles titles overall, "out of respect." They finally chatted in Melbourne.

"It's fantastic to play in front of him," Federer said.

Asked who would win if they played on grass, Laver's favoured surface, Federer joked: "I would lose because we would probably play with wooden rackets."

Some cheer for Indians

Meanwhile hopes of another Leander Paes vs. Mahesh Bhupathi match went out of the window after the former, partnering Nathalie Dechy of France, bowed out in the mixed doubles semifinals.

Paes and Dechy ended up on the wrong side of the super tiebreaker in the third set, and went down 6-3, 4-6, 4-10 to sixth seeds Daniel Nestor of Canada and Russian Elena Likhovtseva.

Bhupathi, however, gave the Indian fans a lot to cheer as he kept himself on road for a third mixed doubles crown on the trot after reaching the final with Martina Hingis.

The Indian doubles star and the 25-year-old 'Swiss Miss' defeated the fifth seeded home contenders Paul Hanley and Samantha Stosur 6-3, 6-3.

Bhupathi had won the title at Wimbledon and the US Open last year with Mary Pierce and Daniela Hantuchova, respectively, last year.

Paes and Dechy had less unforced errors (three against four) and more winners (14 to 10) than their rivals.

And both the teams had equal number of breaks, two.

But Nestor and Likhovtseva played to perfection the super tie-breaker where the team reaching 10 points first wins the match.

Paes is in line for the men's doubles title though. In the summit clash on Saturday, Paes and Czech Republic's Martin Damm take on the top seeded Bryan brothers, Bob and Mike, of the US.- Agencies

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