Fish scales heights to take down Federer

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The Independent Online

Roger Federer, the world No 1, was stunned by unseeded American Mardy Fish after Rafael Nadal's Pacific Life Open title defence came to an abrupt halt in Saturday night's semi-finals.

Federer lost to an American player for the first time in 42 matches when he was crushed 6-3, 6-2 by Fish in a match lasting just over an hour at Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

Fish, who had never beaten Federer in five previous meetings, outplayed the Swiss on a sun-drenched afternoon to book a place in last night's final against third-seeded Serb Novak Djokovic.

The Australian Open champion, Djokovic, swept aside second-seeded Spaniard Nadal 6-3, 6-2 in an earlier match on the showpiece Stadium Court.

"It feels pretty good," Fish, 26, said after an aggressive display featuring 28 winners and seven aces. "I couldn't have dreamed up a better scenario than that. This wasn't obviously Roger's best day, but hopefully I had a little something to do with that. I tried to beat Roger with pace today, up the line and crosscourt. It seems to be working."

Ranked 98th in the world, Fish set the tone for the biggest win of his career by breaking Federer in the second game before sweeping through the opening set in 34 minutes.

With Federer strangely out of sorts and Fish in prime form, the American again broke in the first and fifth games of the second set before serving out to secure victory in the eighth.

"I have a great record against him and I have always controlled matches against him," Federer, 26, said. "Today was different, a tough result. He came up playing very, very well. He took everything on the rise and hit winners. I just couldn't get to his second serve and that was the disappointing part of today.

"I could have served better, sure. I could have returned better, sure. But the guy was on top of his game. He took his chances and it was over in a heartbeat. He played great. I can only congratulate him. Fantastic."

Earlier, Djokovic, 20, broke Nadal twice in each set to secure victory in one hour 28 minutes. In a repeat of last year's final, left-hander Nadal broke in the third game of the opening set when Djokovic hit a forehand long but the Serb broke back to level at 2-2.

Djokovic also broke in the eighth game with a favourable net cord bounce to lead 5-3 before holding serve to wrap up the first set in 41 minutes. Djokovic grabbed the initiative in the second set by breaking in the fifth game when an ambitious forehand by the Spaniard flew wide.

A protracted seventh game featuring several rallies of high quality finally ended in another break by the Serb when Nadal netted a poor attempt at a drop shot to trail 5-2. Djokovic calmly served out to seal victory before raising his right arm skywards to pump the air in celebration.

"I played really well and tactically I played really smart," the 20-year-old Serb said. "I knew that I had to be aggressive, take control of the match and try to go for the shots, which I did." Nadal beat Djokovic 6-2, 7-5 in last year's final.

"If you play against a player like Novak, you have to be at 100 per cent if you want to have chances to win," Nadal said. "The truth is he played better than me today. It's difficult to say more things."

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