Federer rediscovers positive power

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The Independent Online

He committed just seven unforced errors in the course of the final two sets after 21st seed Kiefer's big hitting had rattled the world number one in the second set of their semi-final. Kiefer continually dictated rallies early on, but rash shots cost him the chance to break as he dropped serve in the fourth game of the opening set. Although the 21st seed saved two set points on serve, Federer reeled off two big winners to wrap up the first set in 44 minutes.

Kiefer found more value from his serve in the second set and with games on serve at 6-5, Federer missed two simple shots to give the German a pair of set points, converting on the second chance thanks to another untypical error from the Swiss. Federer's game rose a level in the third set, his counter-hitting continually wrong-footing Kiefer as he broke three times on his way to wrapping up the set in just 25 minutes.

After both men held serve at the start of the fourth set, Federer reeled off four straight games including a sensational cross-court passing shot which set up the double break. Kiefer saved two match points on serve, but Federer then served it out to advance to Sunday's final against the unseeded Baghdatis, who Federer later said would be a difficult opponent.

The Greek-Cypriot has already eliminated Andy Roddick, David Nalbandian and Ivan Ljubicic, the second, fourth and seventh seeds, spurred on by a raucous following including upwards of 30 locally-based family members. "I think we're all surprised he got so far because there's other very talented youngsters who I thought would make the break before him," Federer said, "but he proved us all wrong. "He beat quality players and he totally deserves to be in the final. "It definitely helps me that I've played him already once this year, so I know what to expect."

Their meeting in Doha, in the first week of the year, went the way of Federer in straight sets. He has won all three of their meetings to date and will be the bookmakers' strong favourite to make it four in a row against the world number 54. Federer has been tested in his latest three matches, after cruising through the opening rounds, but claims the increased competition has prepared him physically for Sunday's final.

He came through a five-setter against Tommy Haas and a gruelling four-set contest with Nikolay Davydenko in the fourth round and quarter-finals, and by dropping another set today his aura of invincibility has been questioned. However Federer has survived every test so far, and said: "It was good to be pushed so much by Tommy and Nikolay.

"I don't think I've played too bad up. Now that I'm in the finals, feeling good also physically after a couple of tough matches, it's a good feeling." Federer also revealed he was more nervous about tonight's semi-final than he anticipates he will be before the final. "I had a strange feeling going into this match," he said. "Not a negative one, but just like a big excitement because I knew I'm so close for another grand slam. "I worked so hard to get there and then to lose in the semis would be a big disappointment. But once I got that first break, I was very relieved."