A winner again in the Wimbledon semifinals, Roger Federer walked to the net and bid Lleyton Hewitt farewell with a conciliatory pat on the back.
It might as well have been a shove. With a forceful performance Friday against the world's No. 2-ranked player, Federer won 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (4) and moved within one victory of becoming only the third man since 1936 to win three consecutive Wimbledon titles.
"I'm really, really pleased," Federer said. "It's fantastic. I sort of still can't believe that I did it, so smooth in straight sets."
Federer faced only one break point and beat Hewitt for the eighth consecutive time.
Federer must wait until Saturday to learn his opponent in Sunday's final. The second semifinal between 2004 runner-up Andy Roddick and Thomas Johansson was on serve in the first set when rain halted play with Roddick leading 6-5. After a wait of three hours, the match was suspended overnight.
Top-ranked Lindsay Davenport played just seven points Friday to complete a rain-interrupted semifinal victory over Amelie Mauresmo 6-7 (5), 7-6 (4), 6-4.
Davenport's opponent in the final Saturday will be two-time Wimbledon winner Venus Williams, who advanced Thursday when she eliminated defending champion Maria Sharapova 7-6 (2), 6-1. Williams won the first of her four major titles by beating Davenport in the 2000 final.
Ten minutes after Williams completed her victory over Sharapova, showers halted the other women's semifinal for the night with Davenport leading 5-3 in the third set and Mauresmo serving at 15-love.
The match resumed nearly 18 hours later, and Mauresmo held serve at love, but Davenport then did the same. When the third-seeded Mauresmo dumped an easy volley in the net on match point, Davenport limited her on-court celebration to a smile.
"It stressed the nerves over the last 24 hours," Davenport said. "We were only out there a minute, and you never know what can happen. Fortunately, I was able to pull through with a good service game."
The first Wimbledon semifinal since 1989 to involve the two top-ranked men turned out to be a mismatch. Federer had been 0-2 in Grand Slam semis this year, but he won the first two games and never trailed against Hewitt, the 2002 champion.
"I've got no doubt that I feel like I'm the second-best player going around right at the moment," Hewitt said. "It's just that the best player going around is pretty bloody good."
Federer lost only seven points on his first serve. In the second set he won 20 of 23 serving points.
"He served so well into the corners and gets a lot of lines out there on his first serve," Hewitt said. "It always makes it tough."
The stylish Swiss was Hewitt's equal in rallies, too. Their best exchange came in the second set, when Federer went into the corner to hit a lunging backhand lob. Hewitt moved forward to hit an overhead to the other side, but Federer was there, yanking a forehand crosscourt for a winner.
Federer extended his winning streak on grass to 35 matches, including 20 at the All England Club. His last lawn-court loss was to Mario Ancic in the first round at Wimbledon in 2002.
"I'm very proud to be in my third consecutive Wimbledon final," Federer said. "That means very much to me. I hope I can seize the opportunity."
One good omen for him: Hewitt lost to the eventual champion in the past five Grand Slam tournaments he played. Three of those losses were to Federer.