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Gasquet out of gas, falls to Federer in straight sets

7/7/2007 - Tennis

WIMBLEDON, England -- Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will
meet in another Grand Slam final.

Four-time defending champion Federer reached his ninth
consecutive major final Saturday, beating Richard Gasquet 7-5, 6-3,
6-4 on the grass courts of the All England Club.

"It has become sort of a routine, but I'm still so excited to
be back in the final,'' said Federer, who beat Nadal to win last
year's title but lost to the Spaniard in the last two French Open
finals.

Nadal set up a rematch at Wimbledon when No. 4 Novak Djokovic
withdrew while trailing 3-6, 6-1, 4-1.

"I'm going to have a very difficult match tomorrow, but I'm
going to try my best,'' said Nadal, a three-time champion at Roland
Garros.

The win was Federer's 53rd straight on grass. He finished with
20 aces, including one on a second serve in the final game of the
match.

Gasquet matched Federer for most of the first set, but the
top-ranked Swiss player saved all three break points he faced,
including two at 5-5. Federer saved the first with an ace and the
next with a forehand winner before winning the next two points.
Including those four points, Federer won 44 of the final 54 points
on his serve.

"If I did this break point, everything can happen if I win the
first set,'' Gasquet said.

With Gasquet serving at 6-5, the Frenchman was only two points
away from forcing a first-set tiebreaker, but Federer won four
straight points to take the set.

"The first set was crucial,'' Federer said. "He should have at
least got to the tiebreaker. I came out somehow and played really
well for 10 minutes and was up a set and a break, and that was
pretty much it after that.''

In the second set, Federer held in the first game and then broke
again, eventually taking a 3-0 lead.

After the set ended, the 12th-seeded Gasquet called for a
trainer to look at his left ankle. His ferocious backhands and
whipping cross-court forehands again won him points, but Federer
was too good, breaking Gasquet to lead 4-3 in the final set.

The 25-year-old Federer, who is the oldest of the four men's
semifinalists, is trying to win a fifth consecutive Wimbledon
title, something only Bjorn Borg has done in the past 100 years.
Borg, who won his titles from 1976-80, watched the match from the
stands, wearing a purple-and-green tie -- the colors of the All
England Club.

"It is tricky when you see him sitting there because he is a
living legend,'' Federer said. "I have so much respect for him
that it is great that he's here. I hope I can do the job
tomorrow.''

Gasquet came back from a two-set deficit to beat Andy Roddick on
Friday in the quarterfinals.

"Everything was difficult because I finished at 8:00 [p.m.]
yesterday,'' Gasquet said. "I have to play at noon, so that's not
easy. I was tired.''

Federer didn't look tired. The 10-time Grand Slam champion
dropped his first set of the tournament in Friday's quarterfinals,
but hadn't played a full match in one day since beating Marat Safin
in the third round last Friday.


Nadal pressured Djokovic early, earning three break points in
the first game but failing to convert. Djokovic then broke Nadal in
the second game, and only conceded three more points on his serve
for the rest of the set.

"I start the match playing bad,'' Nadal said. "But I was
practicing before the warmup bad, too.''

The second set started with Nadal holding and then breaking
Djokovic's serve. After Nadal evened the match at one set apiece,
Djokovic called for a trainer. He got the little toe on his left
foot bandaged.

"In the first game of second set, second game, I have the
break,'' Nadal said. "That's decisive in the match ... because I
get confidence there.''

In the third set, Djokovic continued to hobble but saved two
break points in the opening game.

Then, serving at 1-1, 30-30, he put a forehand wide and dropped
to the grass, rocking on the balls of his feet. His next shot was a
forehand into the net.

Nadal held easily to lead 3-1 and forced another two break
points in the fifth game. Djokovic saved one but hit a forehand
into the net on the second. The trainer immediately returned and
Djokovic soon decided to retire.

"I got to look on a positive side," said Djokovic, who also
lost to Nadal in the French Open semifinals. "I showed here that I
really deserve being in [the] last four in Wimbledon, and I think
all the major tournaments."

Djokovic said he even considered withdrawing before the match
because of the blister and back pain.

"It's really infected," said Djokovic, who played five sets
Friday in the quarterfinals. "I didn't sleep during the night
because I had a lot of bleeding and everything, so I was barely
walking this morning."

Djokovic also withdrew against Nadal in the quarterfinals of the
French Open last year.

Both players have spent a lot of time on court over the past few
days because of the massive backlog created by persistent rain
throughout the tournament.

Nadal played two five-setters before reaching the semifinals
Friday with a straight-set win. But Djokovic needed five sets
Friday in the quarterfinals, and four sets in each of the previous
two rounds.