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05 Jul 2008 10:50
Roger vs Rafa III, coming soon to a grass court near London.
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are headed to Centre Court for their third straight Wimbledon final, with one trying to extend his amazing winning streak on grass and the other attempting to win his first Grand
Slam title on a surface other than clay.
“It’s a huge thrill every time when I get to another Wimbledon final,” said 12-time major champion Federer, who stretched his winning streak at the All England Club to 40, a run that includes the last five
Wimbledon titles. “It’s a great occasion.”
Both Federer and four-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal easily advanced through the semifinals on Friday.
Federer outplayed Marat Safin 6-3, 7-6 (3), 6-4 with a nearly flawless performance, and Nadal later
defeated Rainer Schuettler 6-1, 7-6 (3) 6-4.
In Sunday’s final, Nadal will be trying to become the first man since Bjorn Borg in 1980 to win the French Open and Wimbledon titles in the same year, while Federer will be trying to surpass Borg by winning
a sixth straight Wimbledon title.
The only man to win six in a row was Willie Renshaw in the 1880s, and he had to win only one match to defend his titles.
“He was in the finals every time, so it was a little bit easier for him to win six in a row,” said Federer, who has won 65 straight matches on grass.
On Saturday, Venus and Serena Williams will play in their third Wimbledon final, but first since 2003. Venus is a four-time champion at the All England Club, but she lost to younger sister Serena in both the 2002 and 2003 finals.
The Williams sisters will also play for the women’s doubles title, joining forces to face Lisa Raymond of the United States and Samantha Stosur of Australia in the final.
Federer has beaten Nadal in the last two Wimbledon finals, but the second-ranked Spaniard made it close last year, pushing the match to five sets before finally succumbing.
Nadal may have humbled Federer in last month’s French Open, winning 6-1, 6-3, 6-0 for his third straight final victory over Federer at Roland Garros, but he doesn’t necessarily think that makes him the
favourite on Sunday.
“Right now, I know have on the other side of the net the best player of the world—Roger Federer—but I will try my best and we will see,” said the Spaniard, who is on a 23-match winning streak. “I feel I have to play very well if I want to have chances to win. I know he’s playing well, but I’m playing well, too.”
Nadal has a 11-6 career edge over Federer, but the top-ranked Swiss star leads 5-2 on surfaces other than clay.
“I enjoy the challenge,” Federer said. “Rafa is a great competitor.
He’s got a winning record over me. Every time I play him, I want to beat him. He’s now become so good on all the other surfaces that he’s a real threat on anything.”
Federer, who advanced to his 16th Grand Slam final, never lost serve against Safin and showed again why he is considered one of the greatest grass-court players. He beat Safin for the ninth time in 11 matches,
and hasn’t dropped a set at Wimbledon this year.
“Everybody makes the same mistakes, everybody—except Nadal,” Safin said. “That’s what makes the difference between Federer and the rest of the players.”
Nadal had little difficulty with the 32-year-old Schuettler, the lowest ranked player to reach the Wimbledon semifinals (number 94) in seven years.
The Spaniard dictated the points with his punishing ground strokes and faced his only two break points of the match at 1-1 in the second set. He saved the first but Schuettler hit a crosscourt winner on the second. The German was serving for the set at 5-4, but Nadal broke back and then sailed through the tiebreaker.
Another match like that could bring a change in men’s tennis.
“If I win here, probably one of the most important wins in my career,” Nadal said. “If I win Sunday, my career is changing a little bit more.” - Sapa-AP
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