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Federer Reaches 22nd Grand Slam Final; Eyes Fourth Title In Melbourne

Melbourne, Australia

Roger Federer© Getty ImagesRoger Federer has a 15-6 record in Grand Slam championship finals.
Swiss superstar Roger Federer reached his 22nd Grand Slam singles final on Friday, after defeating No. 10 seed and 2008 runner-up Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 in a one-sided semi-final that lasted just 88 minutes.
The top seed dropped just 15 points on serve - winning 37 of 44 points on first delivery and 17 of 25 points on his second serve - in a ruthless performance. He hit 33 winners, while Tsonga hit five double faults and committed 27 unforced errors. "I didn't expect something even close to this kind of scoreline, so obviously it feels great," admitted Federer.
"Tonight was definitely one of the nights where I felt like I had that extra split second more time to think where I was going to play, what I was going to do with the ball."
The 28 year old will next attempt to capture a 16th major title on Sunday against fifth-seeded Briton Andy Murray, who he beat for the 2008 US Open title. Murray defeated No. 14 seed Marin Cilic of Croatia on Thursday night.
Federer is bidding to become the fifth man in tennis history to win four Australian Open titles. The last man to do so was American Andre Agassi in 2003. Federer captured the 2004 (d. Safin), 2006 (d. Baghdatis) and 2007 (d. Gonzalez) titles. He finished runner-up to Rafael Nadal last year.
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It wasn’t until the fourth game that Federer created two break point opportunities on the Tsonga serve at 15/40, courtesy of a forehand drop volley winner that left Tsonga stranded behind the baseline. Federer eventually clinched a 3-1 lead, on his third game point, with a scooped crosscourt forehand winner off a short Tsonga volley.
Federer confirmed the service break after a 10-point game and maintained a three-game cushion to 5-2, when Tsonga fell to 0/40 — after two unforced errors and one double fault. He regained one point when Federer hit a crosscourt forehand into the net, but at 15/40 miss-timed a backhand down the line to hand his Swiss opponent the first set after 30 minutes of play. Federer had won nine of 12 points on approach to the net, hitting two aces and nine winners, while Tsonga committed nine unforced errors and won 19 of 37 total points.
"I thought the beginning was extremely physical," said Federer. "I felt quickly the pulse was racing. It was a tough few rallies we had early on. I think it was key to stay with him there and even take control of the match."
TsongaFederer dropped only eight points through his first seven service games, while Tsonga struggled for consistency on serve. Both players won straight forward holds of serve through the first five games of the second set, until Federer created one break point opportunity in the sixth game.
Attacking the net off a forehand return, Federer put Tsonga under pressure at 30/40 with a backhand volley winner. In a short rally, Tsonga ran around a backhand to miss-time a forehand stroke — hitting the ball long of the baseline to hand Federer a 4-2 lead.
Despite this setback, spectators watching inside Rod Laver Arena continued to urge Tsonga back into the match but Federer, with a 129-1 record against players ranked outside the Top 5 in Grand Slam play since 2004 Wimbledon, was not to be denied the second set. He took a two sets to love lead on the hour mark, having hit 10 winners and just four unforced errors.
In the third game of the third set, Tsonga dropped to 30/40 when Federer snapped a backhand volley above his head for a crosscourt winner. The Frenchman saved the break point with an aggressive serve, but could not win Federer’s second break point opportunity when he hit a backhand into the net.
Tsonga was once again in trouble at 15/40 in the fifth game, when Federer hit a forehand approach winner down the line. Although the Swiss missed his first break point opportunity when drawing Tsonga to the net and lobbing a crosscourt backhand wide, Tsonga gifted him a 4-1 lead with a double fault.
Serving for the match, Federer dropped two points to reach his fifth Australian Open final. On Sunday he will look to capture his 62nd tour-level titles, which would move him into joint-sixth place with Guillermo Vilas for most title in the Open Era (since 1968).
Federer has now won 17 matches in a row against Frenchmen at Grand Slam championships since losing to Arnaud Clement in the 2001 Australian Open third round. He is 19-2 overall in major championship play against Frenchmen (also lost to Clement at 2000 Australian Open).
Tsonga had been attempting to become the first Frenchman to beat a World No. 1 at a Grand Slam championship since Clement beat Agassi in the 2000 US Open second round.
"I was a bit more tired after the first set," admitted Tsonga. "It was tough to play against him today. He was really good, and that's it." When asked if anyone can beat Federer when he plays like that, he said: "I think nobody."
FedererJean Borotra remains France's only Australian titlist, lifting the trophy on a grass-court in 1928. Clement was runner-up at Melbourne Park in 2001.
Murray takes a 6-4 record into Sunday's final against Federer.
"If I don't play well, I'm gonna lose," said Federer. "But I usually don't play bad matches anymore. If I do, it's maybe a few games here and there like everybody else.
"[Murray] is consistent. He's one of the best return players we have in the game. He's been able to improve many things in his game that make it harder today to beat him. I just think I played a good match [at the 2009 Barclays ATP World Tour Finals] in London. He didn't maybe catch his best day. So it was one of those matches I got the better of him."
Federer will be No. 1 in the South African Airways 2010 ATP Rankings for a 268th week on Monday, equalling the tally of American Jimmy Connors for third place overall in the all-time list. Murray could regain the No. 2 ranking if he captures his first Grand Slam title.
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