Federer rolls into Aussie Open final

Updated: January 29, 2010, 5:00 PM ET
Associated Press

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Roger Federer is through to his 22nd Grand Slam final after defeating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 in a near-flawless display Friday at the Australian Open.

Federer, seeking his fourth Australian title, hopes to reverse his tear-filled exit from last year's final when he was beaten by Rafael Nadal, the left-handed Spaniard's first hard-court title.

This time, the man between Federer and another title here Sunday will be Andy Murray, whose motivation has been fueled by a 74-year drought for British men in Grand Slam singles.

Murray beat Marin Cilic in the semifinals after ousting Nadal in the quarterfinals. Now, hopes are high in the United Kingdom that he could be the first British man since Fred Perry in 1936 to win a major singles title.

"I know he'd like to win the first for British tennis since what is it, 150,000 years?" Federer joked to the crowd amid much laughter. "The poor guy who has to go through those moments over and over again ... "

If Federer plays Sunday the way he did Friday against Tsonga, the drought could continue for at least another Grand Slam.

"Don't mess with Roger," one fan wrote on a sign at Rod Laver Arena. And the shell-shocked Tsonga didn't.

Federer reached his 18th final in the last 19 Grand Slam events by overpowering the 2008 Australian Open finalist -- his semifinal loss here to Novak Djokovic in 2008 being the only break in the finals sequence.

Federer did not face a break point against Tsonga.

"It's nice going through a match like that," Federer said. "I think against top players, it's always positive if you can win the first set."

"Maybe mentally he was more fatigued than physically," added Federer. "That's unfortunate for him."

Tsonga hit a backhand into the net on break point to give Federer a 2-1 lead in the third set, and the match was all but over. The 24-year-old Frenchman double-faulted on break point to give Federer a 4-1 lead in the third, and Federer clinched it on his serve in 88 minutes when Tsonga hit a forehand wide.

Earlier Friday, Serena and Venus Williams won their fourth Australian Open doubles title, beating Cara Black and Liezel Huber 6-4, 6-3.

The Williams sisters broke Huber's service to open the second set and won the match when they again broke Huber, clinching it on a winning reflex volley by Serena. The sisters high-fived each other at the side of the court after the win.

The Williams sisters won the Australian title for the first time in 2001 and added championships in 2003 and last year. Black, of Zimbabwe, and Huber, a South African-born American citizen, won the Australian Open doubles title in 2007 and were the top-seeded team in the tournament this year.

Serena has 11 singles majors and is hoping for a 12th in the Australian Open final on Saturday against Justine Henin.

[+] EnlargeRoger Federer
Paul Crock/AFP/Getty ImagesRoger Federer reached his 18th final in the last 19 Grand Slam events by overpowering Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Melbourne.

Henin's stunning success comes only two tournaments into her return from a 20-month retirement, a comeback that the Belgian herself has called "extraordinary" and Williams called an "amazing" story.

"It's more than a dream for me," Henin said Friday. "The challenge of facing the No. 1 player in the world is magnificent."

Henin and Williams both agree that their center-court showdown will be as much a mental battle as a physical one.

"We both want it. But we'll just see who's playing better tomorrow," Williams said.

The two have played 13 times, including six Grand Slam showdowns that went as far as only the semifinals. Williams holds a 7-6 edge in their overall matchups. In Grand Slams, Henin leads 4-2.

Henin has said she was inspired to return to tennis in part by the comeback of fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters, who won the U.S. Open after taking off two years to get married and have a baby.

The return of Henin and Clijsters has restored some life and rivalries to the women's game, which has many promising newcomers but suffered some lackluster finals in their absence.

If Williams wins, she will tie Billie Jean King for a career total of 12 major singles titles.

"It will be a defining match for both of us," Williams said. "It definitely will be mental and [about] who wants the title more and who's willing to go the extra step."


Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press