World's No. 1 playing unbeatable tennis
WIMBLEDON, England -- Roger Federer shares with Pete Sampras more than just a dominant serve, fearsome forehand, stylish flair and love of grass.
There's also the impassive demeanor and reluctance to show emotion, so that the occasional "Come on!" from Federer when he wins a pivotal point seems startling.
"All in all, I'm very quiet, very calm also from the inside," he said. "Obviously now the way it's going, I don't have any reason to be too nervous."
The way it's going, Federer will be tough to beat in the final two rounds at Wimbledon. The 2003 champion will play Sebastien Grosjean in the semifinals Friday, and the other match will be between Andy Roddick and Mario Ancic.
Federer lost his serve and a set for the first time in the tournament Wednesday but still beat 2002 champ Lleyton Hewitt in four sets.
"I'd be very surprised if he doesn't win his third major on Sunday," Hewitt said.
Federer earned his first Grand Slam championship a year ago at the All England Club, then added the Australian Open title in February. He's ranked No. 1 and gaining momentum on grass, where he's 22--0 in the past two years.
That doesn't make him a lock for the trophy. The tournament was back on schedule Thursday for the first time since rain washed out the third day of play, and Federer and the No. 2-seeded Roddick are on schedule to meet in a much-anticipated final.
An Ancic-Grosjean showdown would carry slightly less appeal, especially for network TV executives in the United States, but both players will be dangerous underdogs in the semifinals.
Ancic, the protege of fellow Croat Goran Ivanisevic, finds himself advancing beyond the fourth round of a Grand Slam event for the first time at age 20. He's the only change in the final four lineup from last year, supplanting Mark Philippoussis.
The unseeded Ancic was the last player to beat Federer on grass, pulling off a first-round upset at Wimbledon in 2002. In Wednesday's quarterfinals, the 6-foot-5 youngster used big serves and emphatic returns to beat Englishman Tim Henman.
"He's playing great on grass," Roddick said. "I don't know what it is with all the tall, skinny Croats serving big. He's definitely going to be tough."
The No. 10-seeded Grosjean, a Frenchman who lives in Florida, lost to Philippoussis in last year's semifinals. He's 2--1 against Federer, but those matches all came in 2001.
"For sure he's the best player on the tour, especially on grass," Grosjean said. "I have nothing to lose. In the semis, everything can happen."
So he hopes. But thus far Grosjean is 0--3 in Grand Slam semifinals.
That makes reigning U.S. Open champion Roddick the most imposing potential remaining obstacle for Federer. They met in the semifinals last year, and Federer won in straight sets, but Roddick has since developed a more well-rounded game.
And the American's formidable serve is better than ever. He set a Wimbledon record with a 146-mph serve in his quarterfinal victory over Sjeng Schalken, and he hit second serves at up to 130 mph.
"It's an amazing serve," Schalken said. "He can hit a 125--mph serve like I hit a 90-mph serve.
"He doesn't have a weakness. He's just going for it in the service game with his serve, and the rest of his game is very solid."
Still, Roddick is all about power, while Federer is all about variety. Former top players rank Federer's forehand and volley as perhaps the best in the game, and while his serve is slower than Roddick's, he can mix and place it with uncanny consistency.
It's all reminiscent of seven-time Wimbledon winner Sampras.
Perhaps most significantly, Federer has developed the resolve of a champion. For example, when he was broken for the first time in the tournament to fall behind Hewitt 4-3 in the fourth set, Federer broke back, held and broke again to close out the victory.
"He's a good competitor -- a lot better than he probably was a couple of years ago," Hewitt said. "He gives 100 percent, and it's not too often that he goes away. That's the part of his game he's probably worked on over the last couple of years.
"He's the favorite for the next two matches, for sure."
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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