Federer blanks Gaudio, meets Nalbandian

Paes-Zimonjic pair storms into final

SHANGHAI: Roger Federer produced the first 6-0, 6-0 victory in the history of the year-ending championships, routing Argentina's Gaston Gaudio on Saturday to reach his third consecutive Tennis Masters Cup final.

He will play for the title Sunday against Argentina's David Nalbandian, who defeated Russia's Nikolay Davydenko 6-0, 7-5 in the other semifinal.

Federer is trying to become the first player to win three consecutive year-end championships since Ivan Lendl (1985-87). The Swiss star's 35th straight win, which took 50 minutes, equalled the fifth-longest sequence in the Open era with Bjorn Borg (1978) and Thomas Muster (1995).

``I was looking for a very consistent match, no lapses like I've had in the last couple of matches in the second set. It couldn't have been more perfect,'' said Federer. The top-seeded Federer is 81-3 this year and has not lost since his French Open semifinal defeat to eventual champion Rafael Nadal on June 3. He is one win shy of equalling John McEnroe's Open era record for best winning percentage in a season.

Federer has won his last 24 finals, an all-time best, and hasn't lost in a championship match in more than two years. He has been ranked No. 1 since February 2004.

Federer never before had a 6-0, 6-0 victory on the ATP Tour. It was the first since the year-ending championships began in 1970.

``It was nice. No more than that,'' said Federer, who showed little emotion as he walked slowly to the net to shake hands with Gaudio, the 2004 French Open winner.

Federer has won his last three matches against Nalbandian after losing his first five matches against the Argentine. Gaudio said he'd never lost love-and-love.

``There's no excuses, no,'' he said. ``I was playing against a guy who is the best in history on a surface (where) he's so much better than me. Once in a lifetime it happens — and it happened to me. I'm sad about it, I don't like it, but there's worse things that can happen.''

Federer improved to 5-0 against Gaudio, who was back on court 22 hours after saving three match points en route to a 1-6, 7-5, 7-5 win over Fernando Gonzalez to qualify for the semis.

Good show

Continuing their good show in the tournament, fifth seeds Leander Paes and his Serbian partner Nenad Zimonjic upstaged third seeded Zimbabweans Wayne Black and Kevin Ullyett to storm into the doubles final with a straight set victory.

Leander and Zimonjic, the first pair to reach the semifinal despite their last match defeat against top seeds Bob and Mike Bryan, were in full control of the game as they went on to win 6-3, 6-4.

Playing his fifth year-end championship, Paes and Zimonjic combined well to cruise into the Indian's fourth final. Paes had reached the final with estranged partner Mahesh Bhupathi in 1997, 1999 and 2000.

Eager to add his first Tennis Masters Cup crown to his list of trophies, Paes later said, ``I mentioned to Nenad in November 2004 that we have the game to actually win a Grand Slam.''

``This event here is as big, if not bigger, than a Grand Slam. Maybe this is our event to do really well in and then win. We've played really well so far coming into this tournament. I must tip my hat today to Nenad because he played superb tennis today,'' he said.

The results: Singles (semifinals): Roger Federer bt Gaston Gaudio 6-0, 6-0; David Nalbandian bt Nikolay Davydenko 6-0, 7-5.

Doubles: Leander Paes / Nenad Zimonjic bt Wayne Black / Kevin Ullyett 6-3, 6-4; Michael Llodra / Fabrice Santoro bt Bob Bryan / Mike Bryan 6-3, 7-6 (9-7). — Agencies