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Federer storms into final
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Roger Federer continued his total domination of Andy Roddick with a 6-2, 7-5, 7-5 masterclass in the Australian Open semifinals yesterday.

The 27-year-old Federer extended his head-to-head record to 16-2 against Roddick and will now be aiming to equal Pete Sampras's record of 14 grand slam titles on Sunday.

Federer, who beat the American at the same stage in the 2007 tournament before going on to lift the title, will play either world No 1 Rafa Nadal or Fernando Verdasco in the final.

The Spanish pair play their semifinal today.

"I thought that I played really solid," Federer told reporters. "I thought (the) level was high throughout the match.

"I had a couple good games where I served really well in the first set, and that gave me a lot of confidence going into the second one.

"I was moving well and getting a lot of balls back and making it difficult for Andy to get the upper hand from the baseline. That was kind of what I was hoping for."

Yesterday's victory also meant Federer emulated Sampras by reaching 18 grand slam finals. The only person to beat Federer in a major final is Nadal, three at Roland Garros and once at Wimbledon.

Ivan Lendl played 19 grand slam finals.

However, the Swiss said he was unaware he would pull level with Sampras on the number of final appearances.

"I didn't know I reached my 18th finals in a grand slam. I'm very happy and proud about that," Federer added.

"Shows how long I've been able to keep it up and stay in good shape, stay healthy. That's really the key for success at the highest of levels.

"It's nice to be at the same level as Ivan Lendl and the same as Pete in terms of grand slam wins.

"I hope I can win the next one too."

With Melbourne being in the midst of a once-in-a-century heatwave, the roof on Rod Laver Arena was opened for the Federer-Roddick showdown after being closed for the two women's semifinals earlier in the day when the air temperature peaked above 40 C.

The American's temperature was also raised to boiling point in the first set after chair umpire Enric Molina awarded Federer a point in the sixth game when the Swiss used the Hawkeye system to challenge a line call.

Roddick continued to debate with Molina over various issues for the remainder of the match, was warned for an audible obscenity, and also berated members of the crowd for their comments during the third set.

Federer appeared content to wait for his chance in the third set before he put the pressure on Roddick when needed and capitalized on the important points.

"Let's not kid ourselves. You're down two sets to him and scraping, trying to survive," said Roddick. "I hit the ball pretty well. He just came up with shots when he needed to. That's what he does."

In the women's tournament, Dinara Safina overpowered her fellow Russian Vera Zvonareva 6-3, 7-6 to join American Serena Williams in the final .

The combination of Safina's heavier shot-making and aggression proved too much for Zvonareva as the third seed closed out victory in one hour and 46 minutes under a clsoed roof at the Rod Laver center court.

The 22-year-old Safina reached the French Open final last year but is now on the verge of a first grand slam title after rebounding from a shaky start to the tournament to produce her best performance when it mattered most.

The winner of Saturday's final will receive the added bonus of taking over the world No 1 ranking from Serbia's Jelena Jankovic, who was knocked out in the fourth round.

"Since I was growing up it has been my dream one day to be No 1," Safina said.

"To play against Serena and to fight for the No 1 is just going to be unbelievable."

Safina is also trying to complete a unique family double in Australia by emulating her older brother Marat Safin, who won the men's singles title in 2005.

"I watched my brother on TV winning this tournament and even when I watch it now I have tears in my eyes," Safina said.

"It is great that I can follow his footsteps because he was my idol and he is still my idol."

Meanwhile, Williams screamed into her fourth Australian Open final, slamming the brakes on Russian Elena Dementieva's 15-match winning streak by 6-3, 6-4.

(China Daily/Agencies January 30, 2009)

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