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Top ranking at stake in semifinal

1/28/2004

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Roger Federer and Juan Carlos
Ferrero had hard-fought victories Wednesday to set up a semifinal
showdown for the world's top ranking at the Australian Open.

Federer will become No. 1 for the first time if he beats
Ferrero, who needs to win the tournament to regain the top spot
that he held for eight weeks last year.

"I think my math is good enough to figure that out," Federer
said, referring to the complicated points ranking system.

Current No. 1 Andy Roddick was assured of slipping in the
rankings after being upset by Marat Safin in the quarterfinals on
Tuesday.

Ferrero continued his run for his second Grand Slam by defeating
Morocco's Hicham Arazi 6-1, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (5). Second-seeded Federer
beat No. 8 David Nalbandian 7-5, 6-4, 5-7, 6-3.

Federer's victory gained him some revenge. Nalbandian beat the
22-year-old Swiss player in the fourth round of the Australian and
U.S. Opens last year and had a 5-1 edge in head-to-head meetings.

Federer didn't feel the match lived up to expectations,
especially with him committing 55 unforced errors. Still, he did
enough to win.

At 5-5 in the first set, Federer faced double break point but
ripped four straight aces to hold.

"That was maybe the key of the match," Federer said.

He broke Nalbandian for the set in the next game -- the first set
that the Argentine lost in five matches.

It soon became two. With Nalbandian serving at 4-5, Federer went
ahead at 0-40. Nalbandian saved two break points before hitting a
forehand into the net.

Nalbandian put some pressure on by taking the third set, but
Federer broke Nalbandian's next service game to go up 2-0 in the
fourth. He rode the advantage to finish off the match with his 20th
ace and a serve that Nalbandian hit long.

Ferrero was at his best in the key points in outlasting Arazi,
even though he was getting tired, his injured groin muscles were
aching and Arazi had him sprinting all over the court.

Arazi, ranked 51st, earlier knocked off 25th-seeded Albert Costa
and No. 10 Mark Philippoussis. But he came out cold against
Ferrero, who won seven straight games spanning the first and second
sets, losing only nine points.

In the second set, Arazi came back from 0-2 and fended off two
set points with Ferrero serving at 5-4 to break and even the score
at 5-5. He led the tiebreaker 6-3 before Ferrero ran off six
straight points to take the set.

With Ferrero looking increasingly weary and not moving as well,
Arazi broke him for a 4-3 lead in the third set and had a set point
on Ferrero's next serve. Ferrero won the game, then broke Arazi to
tie the set at 5-5.

"Today was a good test, and I think I passed, I need some rest
today and tomorrow," Ferrero said. "I'm very motivated to get
[the No. 1 ranking] again. I'm playing very good, very solid."