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Federer, Kuznetsova into semis

WORLD No. 2 Roger Federer eased past local favorite Gael Monfils 7-6 (8), 6-2, 6-4 to book his place in the French Open semifinals yesterday.

The Swiss will play his fifth consecutive semifinal at Roland Garros against either Argentine fifth seed Juan Martin del Potro or Spain's Tommy Robredo, seeded 16th.

Federer, the hot favorite in Paris after four-time champion Rafael Nadal was knocked out in the fourth round, saved a set point in the first-set tiebreak before clinching it 8-6.

He hung on a double break to take the second and put Monfils out of his misery on his first match point with a backhand winner, keeping alive his dream of winning the only grand slam title to have eluded him.

Earlier, Svetlana Kuznetsova squandered a big lead but still ended Serena Williams' 18-match grand slam winning streak by winning 7-6 (3), 5-7, 7-5 in the quarterfinals.

Williams, seeded second, was seeking her third successive major title and the 11th of her career. She won her only French Open title in 2002.

She blamed nerves for her defeat. "In the third set I had an opportunity and I got really tight, and I pretty much gave it to her," the American said. "It was like, 'Here, do you want to go to the semis? Because I don't.' She was like, 'OK.'"

The No. 7-seeded Kuznetsova faced a set point serving at 5-6 in the first set but erased it with a slam and won that set. Williams rallied three points from defeat to even the match, then took a 3-1 lead in the third.

The seesaw struggle was so close that midway through the third set, each player had won 100 points.

The Russian mounted the final comeback and broke serve in the last game when a weary Williams committed three unforced errors, including a backhand pushed wide on match point. "Honestly, I think I lost because of me, and not because of anything she did," Williams said.

Kuznetsova, the 2004 US Open champion, is seeking her second major title. Her opponent today will be Samantha Stosur of Australia, who reached her first major semifinal by beating Sorana Cirstea of Romania 6-1, 6-3.

Stosur, 25, has never won a tour title.

Kuznetsova bounced back from being sent to the court in a messy spill that left her covered with clay.

Kuznetsova was serving one point from a 5-2 lead in the second set when she turned her right ankle in pursuit of a shot and fell on her back. She rose with clay covering the back of her shirt and the length of her right arm. Dirt was in her hair and even on her forehead.

She was unhurt and play quickly resumed, but it took awhile for Kuznetsova to regain her footing.

In the other semifinals today, top-ranked Dinara Safina will face No. 20-seeded Dominika Cibulkova. Russian Safina hopes to reach the final for the third time in the past five major events, while the Slovak is playing in her first grand slam semifinal.


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