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Australia defends Open timing

AUSTRALIAN Open organizers have dismissed suggestions from Roger Federer that the first grand slam of the year should be switched from its usual January time slot to February.

Federer, who is the president of the ATP Player Council, said he would like to see the Australian Open moved back a few weeks so the top players could enter warm-up events in the Middle East and Australia.

Under the current schedule, players often choose between events but Federer, one of a handful of players who played at both regions, said changing the dates of the Australian Open would give all players the chance to play both.

"The calendar is always something we do talk about," Federer said.

"I guess to fix the Australian Open problem, having more tournaments beforehand, is to move it backwards a couple of weeks so you have more of an Australian swing coming, and maybe also the middle eastern tournaments."

A number of top players, including world No. 1 Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Andy Roddick, as well as Venus Williams played warm-up events overseas instead of the Australian circuit.

Australian Open organizers have long faced complaints from players about the timing of their summer circuit but Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said there was nothing wrong with the lead-up events.

"This year Australia has showed the strength of their lead-in events," he told reporters yesterday.

"From an operational point of view, our gates opened earlier by a week sometimes up to two weeks for transportation and accreditation than it has in the past so the interest in coming down to Australia has picked up and is more significant.

"There are events that are around the world as there are before and after the Australian Open, particularly in the Middle East but we don't see them as any threat at all to our lead-in series."

Australia likes to run it in January during school holidays to attract bigger crowds.

On the court, Federer converted his fourth match point with an ace to edge Fernando Verdasco in three sets and advance to the final of the Kooyong exhibition event in Melbourne.

After racing to a 5-0 lead in the first set, Federer had to work hard to overcome No. 16-ranked Verdasco 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (5) which he won in 2 hours, 14 minutes.

In an earlier match, Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus beat Croatia's Ivan Ljubicic 7-6 (3), 6-4 in the relegation group.


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