Wed, Jan 26, 2005 - Page 20 News List

Federer pulverizes Agassi

CLINICAL World No. 1 and tournament favorite Roger Federer demolished Andre Agassi in straight sets and now faces Marat Safin in the first semifinal

AFP , MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA

Roger Federer swept aside the challenge of Andre Agassi to reach the Australian Open semifinals as Serena Williams and Maria Shara-pova overcame furnace-like conditions to advance to the last four.

Swiss world No. 1 Federer underscored his status as tournament favorite and current king of tennis by clinically dispatching four-time champion Agassi in straight sets, winning 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.

It was a consummate display from the 23-year-old Federer, who is bidding to become the first player to win three consecutive grand slams since American Pete Sampras in 1993-1994, after winning at Wimbledon and the US Open last year.

"I played a fantastic match today to win in straight sets. I think it needs such a good performance to beat Andre so convincingly," Federer said.

"I always tried to have a good start to each service game. That's what I think made the difference in the end," said Federer, who fired 22 aces against just one from Agassi.

Federer's virtuoso performance enabled him to equal Agassi's stretch of 26 unbeaten matches set back in 1995 -- the joint third-longest winning streak since 1990 behind Austrian Thomas Muster's 35 in 1995.

Federer will now play Russian fourth seed Marat Safin in the semifinals tomorrow, the man he beat to lift last year's men's singles crown.

Safin reached the last four earlier after benefiting from a decision to play his quarterfinal against Slovakia's Dominik Hrbaty with the roof closed on the Rod Laver Arena as temperatures soared.

Tournament organizers ordered the match be played under cover as the mercury shot past 35C, and Safin took full advantage of the cooler climate to rout Hrbaty 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 in just 1hr 30min.

The decision to close the roof came too late for the two women's quarterfinals played earlier Tuesday, which got underway in roasting sunshine.

Sharapova said she had struggled to cope after coming through her quarter-final with fellow Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova, a match that was halted for 10 minutes after the second set to allow players a respite from the heat.

"I need a wheelchair right now," the Siberian-born Wimbledon champion said after battling to a 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 win in 2hr 17min.

But while Sharapova and Kuznetsova looked drained after their tie, seventh-seed Williams -- the 2003 champion -- appeared fresher than ever after romping past injured French world No. 2 Amelie Mauresmo 6-2, 6-2 in 1hr 11min.

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