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Federer sets up Safin showdown

July 03, 2008 11:57 IST

Champion Roger Federer banished menacing storm clouds on Wednesday to set up a tantalising Wimbledon semi-final date with Marat Safin.

The Swiss's pursuit of a modern-era record sixth successive title showed no signs of slowing down when he outgunned, out-thought and ultimately outclassed Croatia's Mario Ancic 6-1, 7-5, 6-4 to reach his 17th Grand Slam semi-final in a row.

There the world number one will meet Russian hot-head Safin, who survived a mini eruption in the first set to overcome Spanish 31st seed Feliciano Lopez 3-6, 7-5, 7-6, 6-3.

Andy Murray's hopes of ending Britain's 72-year wait for a men's champion were dashed when he was on the receiving end of a 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 masterclass from twice runner-up Rafael Nadal.

The Spaniard, on course to meet Federer in a third successive final, will have to wait until Thursday to find out the identity of his next foe. Fading light halted play in the final match between Frenchman Arnaud Clement and Germany's Rainer Schuettler -- they were tied at one set all.

After days of sweltering sunshine, stormy skies enveloped southwest London, bringing with them rain showers that meant more than three hours play was lost.

Federer's victory charge was briefly halted.

But having blown Ancic off court in the 20-minute opening set for the loss of just one point on his serve, Federer took a two hour rain interruption in his stride and marched towards his 64th consecutive win on grass.

"I'm just very happy I didn't have to burn unnecessary energy," said Federer, the only man who has not dropped a set at this year's championships.

"I was in complete control. I was never really under pressure. I served well. I didn't have to save a break point. When you go through a match like that... you know you're in a good and comfortable position."

If there was a prize for endurance, Ancic would already have won it. Not only had he taken an exhausting 11 hours 43 minutes to get to the last eight, almost double Federer's time, he also contested 180 games before Wednesday.

Federer had played 67 fewer games and he did not want to linger longer than necessary on Centre Court.

Ancic, who held the distinction of being the last man to beat Federer on grass in the first round here in 2002, finally ran out of puff and was put out of his misery when Federer fired his 15th ace of the match.


There were also explosions in the other quarter-final being played on Court One.

Safin, twice a Grand Slam winner but now down at 75 in the rankings, became so enraged with his patchy play in the opening set that he fired a ball over the roof and out of the court.

But Safin, once a self-confessed hater of Wimbledon's treacherous green lawns, managed to put a lid on his emotions in a match which soon turned into a battle of the booming serves.

He out-aced Lopez 18 to 17 and his tally of 45 unreturnable serves was one more than the serve-and-volley loving Spaniard.

A double fault from Lopez gave 28-year-old Muscovite a place in the Wimbledon semi-finals for the first time but he was not about to get carried away about his chances of ending Federer's five-year reign on Friday.

"To beat Federer you need to be Nadal and run around like a rabbit and hit winners from all over the place. I think it would be just a little bit too difficult for me to beat him," said Safin, who last won five successive matches during his triumphant run to the 2005 Australian Open.

Murray had celebrated reaching his first Grand Slam quarter-final by rolling up his sleeve and flexing his bulging bicep on Monday.

Forty-eight hours later he came face-to-face with the owner of the most famous muscles in tennis and Nadal dealt the knock out punch after an hour and 55 minutes of one-sided action.

"This was my best match here for sure," the 22-year-old Majorcan powerhouse said. "I tried to play aggressive all the time and hit big power on my forehand. I'm happy to be in the semi-final and also to beat such a tough player."

Murray, who had produced a stirring comeback from two sets and 4-5 down to beat Frenchman Richard Gasquet in the previous round, acknowledged he was second best on every count.

"His forehand was ridiculous, I couldn't get any rhythm... I felt rushed on every point. All I could do was hope his level would go down a bit but I had no chances at all," said the Scot.

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