Mon, Oct 23, 2006 - Page 18 News List

Federer routs Nalbandian

AP , MADRID

A ball girl picks up a tennis ball during the semi-final match between David Nalbandian and Roger Federer in Madrid on Saturday.

PHOTO: AP

Roger Federer moved a step closer to his 10th title of the year, routing David Nalbandian 6-4, 6-0 Saturday in the semi-finals of the Madrid Masters.

The top-ranked Swiss won in 58 minutes for his 18th straight victory. He is trying to become the first player in the Open era to win 10 titles in three straight years.

"We'll see what happens," Federer said. "It's different since we'll be playing five sets. I've already won games 6-0 before, so it doesn't mean much. But it's always nice to win that way."

Federer is 14-0 in semi-finals this year. This was his third victory against Nalbandian in semi-finals this year.

Yesterday he was to face 10th-seeded Fernando Gonzalez, who beat Tomas Berdych 6-3, 6-1. Federer is 7-0 against the Chilean.

Both Federer and Nalbandian held serve in the first set until a passing backhand gave Federer deuce in the fourth game on his way to a break. Spreading his shots to the corners, Federer forced Nalbandian into 14 errors, with eight coming from the Argentine's forehand.

"It has a lot to do with how he plays -- and he hit a lot of errors today, which I forced him to do by playing aggressively," Federer said.

Nalbandian fought back to win a double-break point in the seventh game of the first set. Then he held serve while facing a triple break point to make it 4-4.

Federer's backhand produced four winners on the day, including a superb passing shot that put him in front 5-4 before he broke Nalbandian for the second time to take the set.

Federer captured the first game of the second set with one of his nine aces. A frustrated Nalbandian could do little as Federer broke him three more times.

"My second set was phenomenal, I was able to put more pressure on him, and at 3-0, you start to think this is his last chance," Federer said. "If he plays another poor game, he won't have a chance and you start to feel it."

Berdych, who upset defending champion Rafael Nadal on Friday, committed 21 errors in front of a loud and unforgiving crowd. At one point, the Czech put his fingers to his lips in an effort to quiet the partisan crowd.

"I've never seen anything like this. It's like a dream -- it's not a tennis crowd," Berdych said of the crowd. "In my mind, I never provoked a single guy sitting in the stands, but maybe because I beat Nadal in Spain that was the mistake."

Gonzalez took advantage of the Czech's shaky start and led 2-0. But Berdych's serve saved him in the seventh game when Gonzalez failed to convert two break points.

The Chilean did manage another break in the ninth game to take the set, however.

Breaks in the second and sixth games of the second set were all Gonzalez needed to reach the final.

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