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Federer Reaches US Open Semifinals

NEW YORK: Dealing well with whipping winds and a familiar opponent, 16-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer served his way to a 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 victory over fifth-seeded Robin Soderling to reach the U.S. Open
PTI September 09, 2010 12:11 IST
NEW YORK: Dealing well with whipping winds and a familiar opponent, 16-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer served his way to a 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 victory over fifth-seeded Robin Soderling to reach the U.S. Open semifinals.

"I've been practicing my serve a whole lot, for my whole career. If I can't serve in the wind, I've got a problem, you know?" Federer said. "You could probably wake me up at 2 in the morning, or 4 in the morning, and I could hit a few serves."

Federer had an 18-2 edge in aces against Soderling and improved his career mark against the Swede to 13 wins from 14 matches.

The lone loss was in their previous match, in this year's French Open quarterfinals. Soderling's victory there ended Federer's streak of reaching the semifinals at a record 23 consecutive major tournaments.

Federer then lost in the quarterfinals at Wimbledon, too, prompting some to question whether his best days were behind him. But now, a month after his 29th birthday, he is back in the semifinals at a Grand Slam tournament _ one that he has won five times.

Federer has won 45 of his last 46 matches at Flushing Meadows, the one exception the 2009 final against Juan Martin del Potro.

He will now he'll meet third-seeded Novak Djokovic in the semifinals for the third U.S. Open in a row. It's also the fourth consecutive year they'll play each other in New York, dating to the 2007 final, and Federer has won each of those matches.

"You never know what's going to happen," 2008 Australian Open champion Djokovic said after beating 17th-seeded Gael Monfils of France 7-6 (2), 6-1, 6-2 earlier Wednesday. "I don't want to think about those losses in the last three years, which were really, really close."

All of the day's matches were filled with wind that gusted at up to 30 mph (48 kph), sending all sorts of debris _ brown napkins; plastic bags; players' towels _ rolling on the court and forcing points to be stopped and repeatedly making players catch their ball tosses.

About a half-dozen lets were called during top-seeded Caroline Wozniacki's 6-2, 7-5 victory over 45th-ranked Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia in the last women's quarterfinal.

"This felt like playing in a hurricane or something," said Wozniacki, who has won 19 of 20 matches since Wimbledon and has won her past 13.

Wozniacki made only 18 unforced errors. Cibulkova conceded 43 unforced errors, which played right into Wozniacki's way of winning. She gets more balls back than anyone on tour these days. Her first five opponents have averaged 33 unforced errors.

In Friday's semifinals, the 2009 U.S. Open runner-up will face 2010 Wimbledon runner-up Vera Zvonareva of Russia, who defeated 31st-seeded Kaia Kanepi of Estonia 6-3, 7-5 in Wednesday's first singles match.

A year ago in New York, during a fourth-round loss, Zvonareva wasted six match points and threw a tantrum on court. She bawled. She slammed her racket against her leg. She begged the chair umpire to get her a pair of scissors so she could cut tape off her knees.

On Wednesday, No. 7 Zvonareva was calm and composed, letting Kanepi make mistake after mistake, 60 unforced errors in all. Zvonareva finished with only 28.

"Yeah, it was blowing in every way," Kanepi said after falling to 0-3 in major quarterfinals.

Soderling didn't hit his first ace of the evening until the 143rd point of the match, nearly 1 1/2 hours in, earning a smattering of sarcastic cheers from some fans in the sellout crowd of 23,718. By that time, Federer already had 15 aces, including three in a row in one game.

The wind affected shots, pushing behind a player's back at one end of the court, and blowing into his face at the other. Instead of opting to serve when he won the prematch coin toss, Federer selected which side of the court he wanted to start on, choosing to have the wind behind him for the first game.

"He can play really well in the wind," Soderling said. "He moves well. He's always in the right place."

Soderling chose to serve first, against the wind, and when they switched sides after that game, he earned three break points. But Federer saved each of them, the last with an ace at 120 mph (193 kph), and held to 1-1. Soderling appeared to get rattled in that game on the first break point, when Federer challenged a call and got it overturned on replay review. Soderling wanted the point replayed, but the chair umpire awarded the point to Federer. Soderling argued, to no avail.

Soderling appeared to get himself back into the match by breaking for a 5-3 lead in the third set when Federer sailed an inside-out forehand wide on a 13-stroke exchange. The intrigue there lasted for all of a minute or so, because Federer broke right back to 5-4, helped by three consecutive errant forehands by Soderling.

At 5-5, Federer used the wind in his favor, taking a strong forehand approach shot by Soderling and hitting a hard, slice backhand lob. The shot curled over Soderling and floated down near the baseline. Soderling got there, but his forehand went long.

That helped Federer get two more break points, and he converted the second when Soderling yanked a backhand wide.

All that was left for Federer to do was serve out the victory. He did. And he finished, appropriately, with a pair of aces.

"I was able to pull away," Federer said, "and close it out quickly." AP