- The Washington Times - Friday, July 3, 2009

WIMBLEDON, England (AP) — Five-time champion Roger Federer delivered a masterful grass-court performance Friday to beat Tommy Haas in straight sets and reach his seventh straight Wimbledon final, putting him within one win of a record 15th Grand Slam title.

Seeming to get stronger with every match, Federer put on a serving clinic and took advantage of his break-point chances to subdue the 31-year-old German 7-6 (3), 7-5, 6-3 in just over two hours.

Federer, who will meet the winner of the second semifinal between Andy Murray and Andy Roddick, has won 18 straight matches and is closing in on surpassing the mark he shares with Pete Sampras of 14 major titles.

Federer finished with a flourish, leaping high for a smash reminiscent of Sampras in his Wimbledon heyday. The Swiss star is the first man to make it to seven consecutive Wimbledon finals in the history of a tournament that began in 1877.

Federer never faced a break point as he beat Haas for the ninth straight time to reach his record 20th Grand Slam final. He and Ivan Lendl had been tied at 19 apiece.

“I’m very happy with my performance and it’s unbelievable to back into another Wimbledon final,” Federer said. “I’ve had a lot of pressure over all the years, so this is just another great match, great opportunity for me to get into the history books.”

If Federer wins Sunday, he will be the third player to win six or more Wimbledon titles. William Renshaw and Sampras both won seven.

“I’m very proud of all the records I’ve achieved because I never thought I would be that successful as a kid,” Federer said. “I would have been happy winning a couple tournaments and maybe collecting Wimbledon. It’s quite staggering now having reached … my sixth straight Grand Slam final. Having so many things going for me now again, opportunity again on Sunday, it’s fantastic.”

Federer said he is feeling less pressure this year than in 2007 when he equaled Bjorn Borg’s record of five straight Wimbledon titles. Borg was among those watching Friday from the Royal Box.

“For some reason that meant the world to me,” Federer said. “I was like in a bubble for two weeks, just trying to achieve it. So this time around I think I’m much more relaxed.”

Federer, who completed a career Grand Slam by winning the French Open last month, said he would be happy if Sampras came to Wimbledon to watch him try to break his record. Sampras is home in California looking after his two young sons.

“He might come around, he might not,” Federer said. “It’s his choice. I’d love to see him because he’s a good friend of mine. Very honored of course that I share the record of 14 with him.”

The 34th-ranked Haas, winner of a Wimbledon grass-court tuneup in Halle, Germany, served superbly and held his own against Federer but couldn’t break through. Federer, as cool and calm as ever, made it look effortless. He seemed to bide his time, winning all his service games easily and just waiting for the moment to break.

“I was really happy the way I played today,” Federer said. “I came up with some good stuff when I had to. Tough match because Tommy was playing well. ”

Federer, who had 11 aces, was never even taken to deuce on serve and won 22 out of 24 points on serve in one stretch. He won 89 percent of the points on his first serve and 81 percent on second. Federer had 49 winners to only 15 unforced errors, while Haas had more errors than winners — 31 to 28.

With no breaks in the first set, the tide turned in the tiebreaker when Federer hit a reflex backhand service return winner to go up 5-3. Haas then made a forehand error and Federer won the next point on serve to take the set.

Haas saved two set points on serve at 4-5 in the second set, but sent a forehand long on another break point two games later to hand Federer a two-sets-to-love lead.

The third set was decided when Haas double-faulted to set up a third break point of the eighth game, then sliced a backhand approach into the net. Federer served out the match at love.

The women’s final is Saturday, with a Williams assured of lifting the trophy for the eighth time in 10 years.

The Williams sisters are back in the final again — Venus for the eighth time and Serena for the fifth. And it’s the fourth Williams-vs.-Williams final at the All England Club and eighth in a Grand Slam title match. Fittingly, the show will take place on the Fourth of July.

“The more we play, the better it gets,” Serena said. “When we play our match on Saturday, it’s for everything. This is what we dreamed of when we were growing up in Compton (Calif.) 20-something years ago. This is what we worked for, and this is what we want.”

Venus is bidding to become the first woman since Steffi Graf in 1991-93 to win Wimbledon three years in a row.

The sisters reached their second straight Wimbledon doubles final Friday, beating top-seeded Cara Black of Zimbabwe and Liezel Huber of the U.S. 6-1, 6-2. They will face Samantha Stosur and Rennae Stubbs of Australia for the title.

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