Sat, Jan 28, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Fed express roars toward Baghdatis

FINAL ROUND Marcos Baghdatis from Cyprus, ranked 54th in the world, will face the challenge of a lifetime when he meets Roger Federer tomorrow

AP , MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA

China's Yan Zi, top, hits the ball as teammate Zheng Jie looks on during a women's doubles final against Lisa Raymond of the US and Australia's Samantha Stosur in Melbourne yesterday. Yan and Zheng defeated Raymond and Stosur 2-6, 7-6 (9-7), 6-3.

PHOTO: AFP

Top-seeded Roger Federer advanced to the Australian Open final with a 6-3, 5-7, 6-0, 6-2 victory yesterday over No. 21 Nicolas Kiefer.

Federer was sharp -- and occasionally brilliant -- in beating Kiefer for the seventh consecutive time. The Swiss star now will face heavy underdog Marcos Baghdatis tomorrow as he seeks his seventh Grand Slam title.

Serving notice early that Kiefer would get no easy points, Federer broke for the only time he needed in the first set to go up 3-1, at one point sprinting in from the baseline for a drop shot and flicking a backhand around the net post and down the line for a clean winner.

In the same game, Federer reached another drop and sent a lob over Kiefer's head that he tracked down but smacked well long.

Kiefer leveled the match by breaking Federer as he served at 5-6 in the second set. Kiefer wasted his first opportunity with a weak forehand into the net, but Federer sliced a backhand just wide on the next.

Implacable as usual, Federer stepped up his game and zipped through the third set, committing only two unforced errors -- after 26 in the first two sets -- to retake control. With Federer serving at 5-0, Kiefer saw his only break point vanish on a shot that was called long but that TV replays showed was on the line.

Kiefer held serve to start the final set, only to see Federer run off five straight games. Kiefer saved two match points while serving at 1-5, then a third as Federer served in the next game. Federer finished it off with a serve that Kiefer whacked into the net.

"I really turned it up when I had to," Federer said.

Swiss flag T-shirts were scattered about Rod Laver Arena, and the crowd was clearly behind Federer against the testy Kiefer, who repeatedly questioned calls.

Lowest-ranked finalists in Grand Slam events

* 212: Mark Edmondson def. John Newcombe, 1976 Australian Open

* 188: John Marks lost to Guillermo Vilas, 1978 Australian Open

* 125: Goran Ivanisevic def. Pat Rafter, 2001 Wimbledon

* 100: Andrei Medvedev lost to Andre Agassi, 1999 French Open

* 91: Chris Lewis lost to John McEnroe, 1983 Wimbledon

* 86: Marat Safin lost to Roger Federer, 2004 Australian Open

* 66: Gustavo Kuerten def. Sergi Bruguera, 1997 French Open

* 54: Marcos Baghdatis vs. Roger Federer, 2006 Australian Open


He was fined earlier in the tournament for foul language and was warned twice about obscenities in the quarterfinals.

In the crowd was Laver himself. Federer shared a courtesy car with him at the US Open a couple of years ago but said he didn't speak to the 67-year-old Australian left-hander, who won all four majors in one year twice and finished with 11 Grand Slam singles titles overall, "out of respect." They finally chatted here.

"It's fantastic to play in front of him," Federer said.

Asked who would win if they played on grass, Laver's favored surface, Federer joked: "I would lose because we would probably play with wooden rackets."

Yan Zi and Zheng Jie became the first Chinese players to win a Grand Slam title, beating Lisa Raymond and Samantha Stosur 2-6, 7-6 (7), 6-3 in the women's doubles final.

Yan and Zheng trailed by a set and 3-1 and were down match points twice in the second set tiebreaker against their top-seeded rivals, who won the US Open title. The Chinese pair also saved three match points in the quarterfinals.

Yan called the win "a great step" for Chinese tennis. Compatriots Sun Tiantian and Li Ting won the women's doubles gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Martina Hingis, returning from a three-year layoff, reached Sunday's mixed doubles final with India's Mahesh Bhupathi. They beat Stosur and fellow Australian Paul Hanley 6-3, 6-3 and will face sixth-seeded Daniel Nestor of Canada and Elena Likhotseva of Russia.

Hingis earlier reached the women's singles quarterfinals.

In yesterday's women's final, eighth-seeded Justine Henin-Hardenne of Belgium will try to extend her Melbourne Park winning streak to 14 matches against No. 3 Amelie Mauresmo of France. Henin-Hardenne won here in 2004 and missed last year due to injury.

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