There is a little way to go before the statistics confirm Roger Federer as the greatest player in history, but anyone who witnessed his 6-4, 6-0, 6-2 dismemberment of Andy Roddick in the Australian Open semi-finals here yesterday would consider further debate pointless.
This ranked with Federer's best performances. The 11 games in succession he won from 3-4 down were full of breathtaking shots. One sliced backhand pass left Roddick aghast, while a looping cross-court forehand winner was a wonderful piece of improvisation. Three of the winning shots Federer hit in one game almost defied belief: a half-volley backhand cross-court pass from the baseline, a cracking backhand pass down the line after Roddick's volley into the corner and a whipped cross-court forehand winner.
Alas, poor Roddick, Federer knew him all too well. This was his 13th win in their 14 meetings and the American's pre-match suggestion that the gap was closing after his improvement in the US Open final seemed embarrassingly hollow.
Asked what it was like to be on the end of such a beating, Roddick replied: "It was frustrating. It was miserable. It sucked. It was terrible. Besides that, it was fine."
Roddick will try to avoid newspaper reports of his rout, but he need only call up the match statistics to be reminded of it. Federer hit 45 winners to Roddick's 11, converted all seven of his break opportunities and won 10 of 11 points at the net. Roddick won nine out of 31.
Federer said it was one of the best performances of his career and the first time he had "almost destroyed" a leading player here.
"I started reading his serve, hitting passing shots, not making mistakes from the baseline," he said. "There were no unforced errors, just winners. It just happens by itself. You don't ask yourself any more questions. There's no explanation."
In his record-equalling seventh consecutive Grand Slam final on Sunday Federer will meet the winner of today's semi-final between Tommy Haas and Fernando Gonzalez. His 10th Grand Slam title would leave him just four short of the record held by Pete Sampras.
* Scotland's Graeme Dyce and his Finnish partner, Harri Heliovaara, beat the Americans Mateusz Kecki and Austin Krajicek 6-0, 6-2 to reach today's boys' doubles final.