Basel:Top-seeded Roger Federer beat big-serving Ivo Karlovic 7-6 (6), 7-6 (5) on Saturday to move into the final of his home tournament, the Swiss Indoors, and will play Jarkko Nieminen for his second straight title in Basel.
Nieminen advanced to his first final of the year when he beat Marcos Baghdatis 7-6 (4), 6-2.
If he wins the final, Federer will make sure of finishing the season as number 1 for the fourth consecutive year.
Federer came to Basel after losing the Madrid Masters final and needed three sets to advance from the first round here. But he hasn't dropped a set since.
"After a bumpy ride in the first round and a bit of a scare, my game has progressed and I feel good going into the final," Federer said.
"But he (Nieminen) has beaten some quality players this week and he makes you work hard. You can't underestimate him," Federer said. "The fans will expect me to take a quick lead but it might not happen."
Federer saved one set point in the 10th game with a passing shot out of reach even for the 2.08-meter (6-foot-10) Karlovic, the tallest man on the tour. Federer wasted two set points in the tiebreaker but then won it with an overhead smash.
Karlovic produced an ace, one of his 16, and a volley to save two match points in the 10th game of the second.
Federer couldn't convert one more in the tiebreaker but a forehand into the net by Karlovic put Federer into his 11th final of the year.
The Swiss has won six, including three Grand Slams. Federer is now 11-0 in his semifinal matches this year.
Nieminen is 0-7 against Federer.
"It will be a great experience to play him on his home court," Nieminen said. "Sometimes it feels like he is not a human, but he is and every match starts from 0-0," said Nieminen, who saved match points in his first two matches at the tournament before advancing.
"I lost a lot of tight matches this year but saving those match points here gave me a lot of confidence," said Nieminen, who was the first Finn to win an ATP title, last year in Auckland.
Baghdatis, runner-up in Basel two years ago, lost the first set on a double-fault in the tiebreaker and dropped his serve in the third game of the second. From then on, Nieminen cruised to even his career record against Baghdatis to 2-2.
"I was tired from last night's doubles, I went to bed very late and didn't sleep well," Baghdatis said. He and his partner Stanislas Wawrinka won to get into the semifinals, but that match ended past midnight.
"It wouldn't be fair to my partner if I gave up to concentrate on the singles," Baghdatis said. "I didn't move well. I didn't have any energy. Jarkko played a very solid match, he wasn't giving me any easy points."
Nieminen has lost five of six career finals. He is number 29 on the ATP rankings, five places below Baghdatis.
With his 16 aces Saturday, Karlovic increased his season total to 1,288, but still seems out of reach of his Croatian countryman Goran Ivanisevic's record of 1,477 set in 1996.