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Federer, Nadal romp into final

Last updated on: July 05, 2008 00:05 IST

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal cleared the last treacherous hurdles on Friday to set up a dream final at Wimbledon for the third year running.

Five-times champion Federer earned the chance to re-ignite one of the most fascinating rivalries in sport when he suffocated Russian maverick Marat Safin 6-3 7-6 6-4 at the All England Club.

Federer was delayed on Centre Court for an hour and 40 minutes to extend his unbeaten grasscourt streak to 65 matches. Twice runner-up Nadal took 20 minutes longer but needed fewer games to dispatch Rainer Schuettler 6-1 7-6 6-4.

Federer will be eager to settle a score on Sunday. When the Swiss tactician and Majorcan muscleman faced off in the French Open final last month, Federer was on the receiving end of an absolute mauling, pocketing just four games.

Fans and pundits alike predicted his aura of invincibility was fading fast but over the last fortnight, Federer has sliced through a tricky draw to silence his detractors. He reached the final without dropping a set.

"You can say whatever you like, it's a free world here," said the 12-times grand slam champion.

"I was a little bit surprised how intense it was but I think it happened because Rafa played so well in Paris, beat me so easily. Then went on to win Queen's as well.

"But don't write me off too quickly because this is my part of the season now... I'm on an incredible winning streak on grass. First somebody has to be able to break that before we start talking differently."


Safin certainly did not believe he had the ability to break that run when he realised who his semi-final opponent would be and so it proved on Friday.

The 28-year-old scaled the Himalayas last year but did not even come close to pushing Federer off the Wimbledon summit.

The moody Russian, sulked, screamed and smashed his racket into a courtside chair en-route to lopsided defeat.

Those hoping for a repetition of Safin's amazing victory from match point down over Federer in the semi-final of the 2005 Australian Open were deeply disappointed.

The former world number one, now ranked 75th, was outclassed by a combination of Federer's piercing serves and razor sharp returns.

"(It) was terrible... he did not even give me a chance," said Safin, whose record against Federer now stands at 2-9.

Not many had given Schuettler a chance of winning even a handful of games against Nadal, especially after an energy-sapping five-hour duel with Arnaud Clement in a rain-delayed quarter-final on Thursday.

The German, at 94 the lowest ranked man to reach the Wimbledon semi-finals since world number 125 Goran Ivanisevic won the title in 2001, predictably collapsed in the first set against Nadal.

Just when it seemed that Schuettler was probably wishing he had not bothered to change his plans of spending the second week of Wimbledon in a Swiss mountain retreat, the German snapped back to attention to streak into a 4-2 lead in the second.

Nadal, who ended up with a bloodied knee after slipping and sliding, did not allow Schuettler to enjoy the moment for too long and wore down the 32-year-old with a barrage of spellbinding groundstrokes.

"I'm very happy to be in the final again as Wimbledon is a very important tournament for me and I'll try and play my best tennis on Sunday, as that is the only way (I can win this)," said Nadal, who has been the only man to stretch Federer to five sets during his five-year winning run on grass.

"I'm entering this final with very good confidence but I know I have on the other side of the net the very best player in the world.

The pair will be the first to appear in three successive Wimbledon finals since Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg from 1988-1990.

Federer now stands one match short of capturing a sixth successive Wimbledon crown. Should he succeed he would become only the second man to do so, emulating Britain's William Renshaw who completed his haul in 1886 during the Challenge Round era when the defending champion played only the final.

(Editing by Clare Lovell)

Pritha Sarkar
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