Sat, Jan 27, 2007 - Page 20 News List

Gonzalez crushes Haas to reach final

BREATHTAKING Playing in his first Grand Slam semi-final, the Chilean left the crowd gasping, completely dominating his German opponent in a straight sets win

AP , MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA

Fernando Gonzalez of Chile hits a ball between his legs during his men's singles semi-final match against Tommy Haas of Germany at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne yesterday. Gonzalez won the match 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 to reach tomorrow's final.

PHOTO: AFP

They call him "Speedy" Gonzalez, and he showed why.

Tenth-seeded Fernando Gonzalez put on another brilliant display of tennis yesterday, sprinting all over the court to rip winners at will as he dominated Germany's Tommy Haas 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 to reach the Australian Open final.

It was a performance reminiscent of top-ranked Roger Federer's rout of Andy Roddick in the other semi-final a night earlier. Gonzalez was nearly flawless, leaving the capacity crowd gasping and the 12th-seeded Haas stunned and frustrated.

"It was a really good day for me," Gonzalez said. "I have been playing great tennis. I am enjoying it a lot."

Gonzalez had zero unforced errors in the first and third sets and only three for the match to go along with 42 winners that accounted for more than half of his 82 points.

For Haas, it was overwhelming.

"I played actually pretty good tennis," Haas said. "Every time I tried to do something differently, he came up with the answer. That's quite frustrating after a period of time. I just have to hand it to him, tip the hat, say that's too good tonight. Nothing I could have done."

Gonzalez, who had never reached a Grand Slam semifinal before, will face Federer tomorrow evening in the championship match.

"Roger is No. 1 one by far," Gonzalez said. "But there is only one match left. I have lost many times to him, but I know that I am playing much better than the last time that we played."

The women's final today pits top-seeded Maria Sharapova, the reigning US Open champion, against two-time champion Serena Williams, unseeded while coming back from a bad knee that limited her to four tournaments last year.

Music from a nearby concert drifted into packed Rod Laver Arena on a brisk Australia Day evening yesterday. Fireworks followed the match, but Gonzalez provided plenty before then.

Once known for a weak backhand and a fragile psyche, Gonzalez has improved both significantly in recent months and has won over thousands of fans here with his powerful serve and forehand.

He was excited about the match statistics.

"I have been playing many years with 45 unforced errors and three winners!" he said.

The Chilean ran off 11 points to start the first set, and Haas ended up with only 12 points in the seven games.

Gonzalez slipped only slightly in the second set with 12 winners and three unforced errors as Haas, his confidence shattered, spiked his racket once and came close to slamming it into the court on two other occasions.

Haas tried to pick on Gonzalez's backhand, but the Chilean just kept getting back slice after slice until he got a chance to wind up on a forehand and send zingers into the corners.

A group of vocal German fans included five young men with "Tommy Haas" spelled out on their bare chests and "Bye Bye Gonzalez" on their backs, cheered for Haas between points, but their support was in vain.

Gonzalez, who never faced a break point, finished it off with a backhand crosscourt winner for his seventh service break to end it in 1 hour, 31 minutes -- eight minutes longer than Federer's win over Roddick.

"I'm obviously trying to think what I could have done differently after the match like this. It's really hard," said Haas, who added that Gonzalez made him understand how Roddick felt. "Pretty much everything he touched tonight seemed to go his way. He's playing some good tennis, that's for sure."

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