Federer casts aside Haas to set up first Monfils showdown

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The Swiss world No 1 defeated Tommy Haas, of Germany, 6-3, 6-3, in the semi-finals yesterday, pushing out of his mind any lingering thoughts of the ankle injury that brought a painful end to 2005.

"I am now getting a feel for the big games," Federer said after his quarter-final victory against Marcos Baghdatis, of Cyprus. Haas would not argue with that after losing to Federer for the fourth time in six meetings. In June last year Federer defeated Haas in straight sets on grass at Halle before winning the Wimbledon title for the third time in a row.

Haas, who eliminated Tim Henman in the second round in Qatar, was broken twice by Federer yesterday, in the seventh game of the first set and the sixth game of the second set.

The most telling reaction to the first week of Martina Hingis' comeback was a sore hip. "You can't expect everything to be perfect with your body when you just haven't done that much in three years," the 25-year-old former world No 1 said after losing to Flavia Pennetta, of Italy, 1-6, 7-6, 6-2, in the semi-finals of the Gold Coast tournament.

"It was just a lot of tennis this week," Hingis said. "I'm not 18 any more, and I can't recover that quickly. I have to look after myself a little bit now." She underlined the point by withdrawing from the doubles event.

Hingis complimented her opponent and added: "If I would evaluate this tournament right away, I'm very happy. I'm very positive with what I've achieved."

After dominating the opening set against Pennetta, Hingis was nagged by pain in her hip after losing the second set tie-break. She will complete her preparation for the Australian Open, which starts on 16 January, by competing in next week's Sydney International.

Hingis is not the only player creaking into the new season. A knee injury caused Serena Williams to withdraw from the Champions Challenge in Hong Kong, though the American says she is determined to defend the Australian Open women's singles tittle. Williams scratched from her match against Zheng Jie, of China, after losing her opening round-robin contest to Elena Dementieva, of Russia. "I've developed some swelling in my knee and was advised by the physio that I shouldn't play," said Williams, who last year suffered from a series of ankle and knee problems.

The loss to Dementieva, 6-3, 6-1, was Williams' first competitive match since a first-round loss at the China Open last September.

Williams' older sister, Venus, the Wimbledon champion, had treatment to a thigh en route to defeating Sania Mirza, of India. It was Williams' first match since a knee injury caused her to withdraw from the China Open.

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