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Nadal, Federer on roll

Schuettler, Safin loom in semifinals

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Chris Lehourites
Associated Press / July 4, 2008

LONDON - Roger Federer is back to his old self on the Wimbledon grass, and Rafael Nadal is moving ever closer to a new level of success at the All England Club.

The top two players in men's tennis are on course to meet in their third straight Wimbledon final, but both have to get through the semifinals first.

"I don't want to think about the final," said Nadal, who lost to Federer in the last two Wimbledon finals but stretched the five-time defending champion to five sets last year. "Not yet."

Both players dominated their quarterfinal opponents, with neither facing a break point in straight-set wins. Federer hasn't been broken once through five matches at this year's tournament.

"I feel so comfortable on this Centre Court that my confidence level is obviously very high," Federer said after beating Mario Ancic to set up a semifinal match against two-time Grand Slam champion Marat Safin.

Federer's comfort in Wimbledon has been obvious. Despite struggling at the start of the season with mononucleosis and coming into the third major of the year with only two titles, the 12-time Grand Slam champion has stretched his grass-court winning streak to 64 matches and his Wimbledon streak to 39.

"Very confident," added Federer, who has reached the semifinals for the 17th consecutive time at a Grand Slam event.

"It's something fantastic, no doubt. Because I know the streak before that was way lower," Federer said of Ivan Lendl's previous record of 10 straight major semifinal appearances. "Getting so far in every Grand Slam I've played for so many times in a row, it's something that means a lot to me."

Nadal isn't exactly shaking at the prospect of facing Federer again, however. Last year, he wasted four break points in the fifth set, coming as close as anyone to beating Federer at the All England Club for the first time since 2002.

"Only one more point and probably I have the trophy in my home," said Nadal, a four-time French Open champion who beat Federer in the last three finals at Roland Garros.

In today's semis, Nadal will face Rainer Schuettler, who beat Arnaud Clement, 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (8-6), 6-7 (7-9), 8-6, in a match that started Wednesday but was suspended because of darkness at one set apiece. They split the next two sets yesterday, and Clement had a match point on Schuettler's serve at 5-4, but the German hit a forehand winner before holding and eventually setting up the match against Nadal.

"Obviously a tough one," Schuettler said. "He plays unbelievable."

Federer has a more difficult semifinal opponent in Safin, who has put away his distaste for grass to become the first Russian man to reach the semifinals at Wimbledon in the 40-year history of the Open era.

At the 2005 Australian Open, Safin beat Federer in the semifinals on the way to winning his second Grand Slam title.

"Once he's on a roll, he's quite unstoppable," Federer said.

Safin, however, is 2-8 against Federer and doesn't think he has much of a chance against someone trying to become the first man since Willie Renshaw in 1886 to win Wimbledon six years in a row.

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