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Federer closer to record title

ROGER Federer stood one match away from a record 15th grand slam title after he snuffed out the challenge of Germany's Tommy Haas 7-6, 7-5, 6-3 to reach the Wimbledon final yesterday.

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 in just over two hours.

Federer never faced a break point as he beat Haas for the ninth straight time to reach his record 20th grand slam final, pulling out of a tie with Ivan Lendl.

"I'm very happy with my performance and it's unbelievable to be 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."

Federer is the first man to make it to seven consecutive Wimbledon finals in the history of a tournament that began in 1877.

Federer has won 18 straight matches as he closes in on his 15th major title. He is currently tied with Pete Sampras with 14.

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

"It's not the only reason why I'm playing tennis, mostly because I love it and I enjoy playing tennis, but sure going for something that big this coming Sunday, it's quite extraordinary," Federer said.

Federer said he would be happy if Sampras came to Wimbledon to watch him try to break his record. Sampras is currently at 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 grasscourt 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.

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 and finished with a flourish -- leaping high into the air for a smash reminiscent of Sampras in his heyday at Wimbledon.

The women's final is today. 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.


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