Federer beats Safin to enter finals

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/A/Aprogerfederer.jpg' class='caption'> Roger Federer advanced to the final at the Kooyong exhibition tournament with a 6-3, 7-6 (2) win over Marat Safin.

Updated: March 22, 2007 06:37 IST
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Second match back and Roger Federer was settling into his rhythm, advancing to the final at the Kooyong exhibition tournament with a 6-3, 7-6 (2) win over Marat Safin. The top-ranked Federer was in control of the first set Thursday, breaking Safin's serve in the fourth game, giving himself two set points in the ninth with a backhand volley winner and closing with an ace. He had some lapses in the second, wasting two breakpoint chances in the third game before dropping serve in the sixth. But the 25-year-old Swiss star got back on serve and forced the tiebreaker, setting up five match points with an angled backhand volley and finishing off when Safin dumped a backhand into the net. Federer, chasing a 10th Grand Slam singles title when the Australian Open starts next week, said he felt more comfortable, hit more clean winners and had fewer unforced errors than he did in his first match of the 2007 season the previous afternoon. He shook off some rust in a 7-6 (2), 6-7 (4), 7-6 (5) win over Radek Stepanek on Wednesday, winning the last five points in the tiebreaker to seal it in hot conditions and in a swirling wind. "I definitely served better and just tightened up the game a bit, so I was really happy," Federer said. "I was expecting a really tough match because yesterday I was struggling with the rhythm and everything. "But I came out and played really well, didn't make many unforced errors in the wind and could hang with him from the baseline." Extra rest Federer skipped the Qatar Open this year after opening the previous two seasons with wins at Doha. He said the extra rest between seasons would serve him well in the long term, particularly after a hectic 2006 in which he went 92-5 and won three Grand Slam singles titles. He said he was satisfied with his first two matches in the eight-man invitational draw at Kooyong and was looking forward to defending his Australian Open title. "Yesterday, I had too many loose moments, but it was obvious that was going to happen. It was just a matter of getting my act together for today, and I did, so I'm feeling good." Federer will play either Andy Roddick or Andy Murray in Saturday's final. Defending champion Roddick, who beat Tommy Haas 6-2, 6-3 on Wednesday, and Scotland's Murray, a 6-4, 6-2 winner over Ivan Ljubicic, will meet Friday for a place in the final. Safin, the 2005 Australian champion who struggled with injuries last season and missed a title defense at Melbourne Park, moved more than 70 places up the rankings late in the year after falling outside the top 100. "It took me quite a lot of time to get here, to where I am and I think I've improved my game a little bit, step by step, for the past year," Safin said. "I'm pretty satisfied with the way my game improved." In the relegation group, Ljubicic beat Haas 7-6 (5), 6-4 and Stepanek beat Chile's Fernando Gonzalez 6-4, 7-6 (4).

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