Federer dominates Ferrero in semifinal
MELBOURNE, Australia -- Roger Federer reached the Australian Open final Friday, turning his showdown with Juan Carlos Ferrero for the top ranking into a rout.
Federer supplanted Roddick at No. 1 and is the 23rd man to hold the top ranking.
"I love it," the second-seeded Swiss said.
Federer took control of the semifinal after fending off four break points while serving at 3-3 in the first set, rallying from 0-40. From 4-4, Federer won five straight games and eight of nine, denying the third-seeded Spaniard a chance to break again.
Federer's calm exterior masked a case of the jitters.
"Maybe I have a poker face, but I get really nervous," he said.
He was cheered by fans in T-shirts depicting the Swiss flag.
"They're very neutral when it comes to other things," Federer said. "But when it comes to sports, they go wild."
Ferrero, the French Open champion, was facing a seeded player for the first time in six matches, benefiting from upsets in his quarter of the draw. He looked increasingly downcast as Federer ripped winners from the baseline and net, keeping him off-balance with spins and pinpoint placements.
The Spaniard said his strained groin limited his movement.
"I started to feel the pain in my legs," said Ferrero, who also has complained of back and arm problems the last two weeks. "It was a disaster."
He said he will rest and skip Spain's Davis Cup matches in the Czech Republic next week. He felt the short break after the Masters Cup in November and the Davis Cup final in Melbourne last month may have contributed to his problems.
Federer, who had 11 aces, won when Ferrero hit a service return long. Federer then turned to his friends in the players' box.
"I just really wanted to enjoy that moment," he said.
Federer will be seeking his second Grand Slam when he faces Safin on Sunday.
"Marat is a nice guy and we've always had great matches. It's good to see him back," Federer said. "We're all happy but we're all scared at the same time."
Safin, once ranked No. 1, was unseeded and ranked 86th after an injury-plagued 2003. The Russian could rise to 18th by beating Federer. Roddick will fall to third and Agassi will drop one spot to fifth.
Federer missed a chance at the top spot last August when he lost a semifinal to Roddick at Montreal.
"I was basically shaking all over my body because I couldn't believe the chance I had," Federer said, recalling when he served for the match against Roddick, only to be broken and lose in a tiebreaker. "It was the defeat that hurt me the most last year. Today I was much more relaxed."
He also missed a chance at No. 1 at the Masters Cup in Houston in November. He is the first Swiss man to claim the top ranking; Martina Hingis was the No. 1 woman.
The top ranking is on the line in the women's all-Belgian final between No. 1-seeded Justine Henin-Hardenne, the reigning French and U.S. Open champ, and Kim Clijsters (ESPN, Friday, 9:30 p.m. ET).
They have faced each other 17 times on tour, including eight matches in 2003, with Clijsters holding an overall 9-8 edge. But Henin-Hardenne leads 2-0 in Grand Slam finals.
Neither has lost a set in six matches. Clijsters, seeking her first title in a major, has a sprained ankle. She is the fiancee of Australia's Lleyton Hewitt and will be the crowd favorite.
"I've come to so many Davis Cup matches here, and now to be on court, and have the support of the crowd, it's very special," Clijsters said. "I've made the final at the French and U.S. Open, but coming here means a lot more to me."
Top-seeded Virginia Ruano Pascual and Paola Suarez won their fifth Grand Slam women's doubles title Friday, the first championship to be decided. They defeated the fourth-seeded Russians Svetlana Kuznetsova and Elena Likhovtseva 6-4, 6-3.
It was the eighth straight Grand Slam doubles final for Ruano Pascual of Spain and Suarez of Argentina. Their serve was broken only once, while serving for the match at 5-2.
"Our coordination is really good," Suarez said. "I think we have a really good feeling between us."
Martina Navratilova, 47, took another step toward her 10th Grand Slam mixed doubles title. She and India's Leander Paes, the defending champions, beat Jonathan Erlich of Israel and Liezel Huber of South Africa 6-4, 6-4 in the semifinals.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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