Federer closes in on Wimbledon title

Roger Federer needs one more victory to join Pete Sampras and Bjorn Borg as the only men since 1936 to win three consecutive Wimbledon titles.

updated: February 25, 2007 10:52 IST
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When Roger Federer clinched his latest berth in the Wimbledon final, he tossed his sweaty bandanna toward the crowd, leaving a mussed moptop as he walked off Centre Court. Unruly hairdo aside, the top-ranked Federer looked impeccable Friday as he beat Lleyton Hewitt 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (4) in the semifinals. Eyes on record The stylish Swiss needs one more victory to join Pete Sampras and Bjorn Borg as the only men since 1936 to win three consecutive Wimbledon titles. "A few more days of pressure," Federer said. "My heart rate starts to go up when the occasions are big." Anxiety wasn't apparent against Hewitt, the 2002 champion and the world's No. 2-ranked player. Federer seized a quick 2-0 lead and never trailed, facing only one break point. "I feel like I'm the second-best player going around right at the moment," Hewitt said. "It's just that the best player going around is pretty bloody good." Their lopsided rivalry underscores Federer's superiority on the men's tour. He has won eight consecutive matches and 15 consecutive sets against the combative Australian, suggesting a psychological edge. "It's obvious," Federer said. "It's not so easy to play somebody who you've lost to so many times. That definitely helps me." Federer, seeking his fifth major title, was forced to wait to learn his opponent in Sunday's final. Meanwhile, top-ranked Lindsay Davenport needed just four minutes to complete a rain-interrupted semifinal victory over Amelie Mauresmo 6-7 (5), 7-6 (4), 6-4. Davenport, the 1999 champion, will face two-time champ Venus Williams in the final on Saturday. Federer, ranked No. 1 since February 2004, had been 0-2 in Grand Slam semifinals this year. But the first Wimbledon semi since 1989 to involve the two top-ranked men turned out to be a mismatch. Pinpoint strokes Federer rarely ventured to the net, content to win with a dominating serve, pinpoint groundstrokes and his knack for coming through on pivotal points. "I believe strongly in my capabilities," he said. "I'm very motivated. There's a lot of confidence as well with my record on grass and in general over the years. I've built up this feeling on big points that I can do it over and over again.'' Winning streak Federer extended his winning streak on grass to 35 matches – six shy of Borg's record 41 set in 1976-81. The streak includes 20 matches at the All England Club. He's nearly as good on other surfaces, with a record of 97-5 since June 2004. "I'd be surprised if he didn't win 10 majors," said John McEnroe, who won seven. "He's just better than everyone else. ... He's closing in on being one of the best, if not the best of all time." The quality of the opposition provided some consolation for Hewitt, beaten for the fourth time in his past six major events by Federer. "I'm obviously doing right to keep putting myself in these positions," Hewitt said. "It would just be nice to go one or two steps further. ... I can't really remember the last time in the last 18 months or so that I've lost a bad match to an average player. So in that way, that's a huge positive." (AP)