- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 4, 2009

WIMBLEDON, England | Roger Federer channeled Pete Sampras on match point in the Wimbledon semifinals Friday, tucking both feet back beneath his body and uncorking an overhead smash.

After years of chasing Sampras, Federer is poised to surpass him.

A victory against No. 6 Andy Roddick in Sunday’s final at the All England Club would give Federer his 15th Grand Slam singles championship, breaking a tie with Sampras for the most in men’s history. It also would give Federer a sixth Wimbledon title and a return to No. 1 in the rankings.

As it is, No. 2 Federer’s overwhelming 7-6 (3), 7-5, 6-3 victory against No. 24 Tommy Haas in Friday’s opening match on Centre Court put the Swiss star in a seventh consecutive Wimbledon final and 20th career Grand Slam final - establishing two other marks.

“I’m very proud of all the records I’ve achieved because I never thought I would be that successful as a kid. You know, I would have been happy winning a couple tournaments and maybe collecting Wimbledon,” the 27-year-old Federer said. “It’s quite staggering.”

When he finished off Haas, Federer simply waited at the net to shake hands. Then he gave a little wave of his racket in the direction of his pregnant wife, his parents and other supporters before making the same gesture toward the Royal Box, where Bjorn Borg and Rod Laver were among the guests.

Winning a Wimbledon semifinal - indeed, any Grand Slam semifinal - is been there, done that for Federer: He is 20-3 in major semis in his career, reaching 16 of the past 17 major finals.

“I know what’s on the line,” Federer said. “I hope I can play another good match.”

His previous match against Haas, on June 1 in the fourth round of the French Open, was much tighter. Haas won the first two sets that day - and drew within five points of victory - before Federer came back on his way to winning the title at Roland Garros to complete a career Grand Slam and tie Sampras with 14 Grand Slam championships.

This time, Federer was close to perfect. He won a remarkable 72 of 83 points on his serve, did not face a single break point in 17 service games (winning 10 at love) and finished with 49 winners and only 15 unforced errors.

“That’s the way it goes playing against him,” Haas said. “There aren’t really any weaknesses.”

Roddick celebrated emotionally after finishing off No. 3 Andy Murray 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (7), 7-6 (5) in the second semifinal. The 2003 U.S. Open champion, still seeking a second major title, dropped to his knees, leaned forward and covered his head with his hands.

Leaving the court, Roddick paused to enjoy the moment, thankful that all of the changes he has made in the past several months paid dividends: tweaking his diet to drop 15 pounds, hiring a new coach, and working more than ever to improve his returns, his volleys and his backhand.

“To be honest, the last couple of years, I didn’t know if I’d ever get a chance to play for another Grand Slam title,” he said. “Now I get to. It’s just a dream.”

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