- Kamakshi Tandon
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MELBOURNE, Australia -- One of the greatest records in tennis history is still alive, and for once we're not talking about Roger Federer's quest for a 14th Grand Slam title at this year's Australian Open.
We're talking instead about his streak of 19 straight Grand Slam semifinals. Stretching back nearly four years, it's nearly double Ivan Lendl's previous record (10) and represents an incredible show of consistency on the game's biggest stages.
Federer hit the mark in style, producing a flawless performance to defeat Juan Martin del Potro 6-3, 6-0, 6-0 in the quarterfinals at Melbourne.
The struggles of Federer's five-setter against Tomas Berdych in the previous round were quickly consigned to the past as the Swiss rolled through this match in just 1 hour and 20 minutes.
It was clear from the beginning that Federer was going to be sharp, for he hit three big serves and a backhand winner in his opening service game.
More of a surprise was the way del Potro unraveled as the match went on. The talented 20-year-old was the breakout player of 2008 and had said before the match that he no longer felt a victory over Federer was beyond his reach.
But tonight, it was. A tentative start allowed Federer to open up the court early and grab a break in del Potro's second service game.
After breaking to love in the first game of the second set, Federer was firing on all cylinders, showing off almost every facet of his skill.
And not just with the racket. At 4-0 in the third set, Federer was ready to put away a forehand volley when del Potro's previous shot was called "not up." With the point over, Federer pulled back his racket at the last second and headed the ball over the net.
Only his appearances at net became less frequent as the match wore on, with 11 forays in the first set and only two in the third (he won 21 of his 25 net approaches).
Overall, Federer hit 38 winners, lost just nine points on serve and broke del Potro in seven of the Argentine's 10 service games. Despite the ease with which he was winning, Federer did not let up during the match, taking the last set in just 19 minutes.
"You want to almost put him out of his misery because you know how tough it is for him to come back," Federer said. "He's trying shots he shouldn't be trying."
Del Potro did not have much to say after the defeat.
"Just had a bad day, and he's Roger Federer," shrugged the Argentine. "I can't do anything in the match. He play like No. 1 in the world, that's it."
It was unclear whether del Potro had forgotten Federer's recent ranking drop to No. 2 or was making a statement about the future.
Either way, the statement made by Federer on Tuesday night was quite emphatic. He'll be looking to carry the same form into his semifinal against Andy Roddick, who has lost 15 of their 17 matches but won the last one on the hard courts of Miami in March.
Federer is 27 and Roddick is 26. "It's nice playing someone who's my age, these days," Federer joked. "Everyone is so young."
Kamakshi Tandon is a freelance tennis writer for ESPN.com.