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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, January 29, 2010

Tennis: Federer routs Tsonga, eyes fourth Australian title

AP Sports Writer

MELBOURNE, Australia In command on the court and cracking jokes afterward, Roger Federer advanced to the Australian Open final with a 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 victory over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga today in a nearly flawless performance.

Federer, seeking his fourth Australian title, reached his 22nd Grand Slam final. The top-ranked Swiss made a tearful exit from last year's final when he lost to Rafael Nadal.

This time, the man between Federer and another title Sunday will be Andy Murray, whose motivation has been fueled by a 74-year drought for British men in Grand Slam singles. He's playing in his second final, having lost to Federer at the 2008 U.S. Open.

Earlier, Serena and Venus Williams won their fourth Australian Open doubles title, beating Cara Black and Liezel Huber 6-4, 6-3. Serena will play for the singles crown Saturday against Justine Henin.

Murray defeated Marin Cilic in the semifinals after ousting Nadal in the quarters. Now, the Scot has raised big hopes back home with the prospect of becoming the first British man since Fred Perry in 1936 to win a major.

"I know he'd like to win the first for British tennis since what is it, 150,000 years?" Federer said to the crowd amid much laughter. "The poor guy who has to go through those moments over and over again."

Federer has won a record 15 Grand Slam singles titles and is in an altogether different position than his opponent.

"I don't feel like the pressure's really on me having to do it again because I did it before," he said later. "I think he really needs it more than I do. So I think the pressure's big on him. We'll see how he's going to handle it. It's not going to be easy for him, that's for sure."

If Federer plays Sunday the way he did Friday against Tsonga, Britain might have to wait longer.

"Don't mess with Roger," one fan wrote on a sign at Rod Laver Arena. And the shell-shocked Tsonga didn't.

Federer reached his 18th final in the last 19 Grand Slam events by overpowering the 2008 Australian Open finalist. His semifinal loss to Novak Djokovic two years ago the only break in the finals sequence.

Federer did not face a break point against Tsonga.

"It's nice going through a match like that," Federer said. "I think against top players, it's always positive if you can win the first set."

"Maybe mentally he was more fatigued than physically," Federer added. "That's unfortunate for him."

Tsonga hit a backhand into the net on break point to give Federer a 2-1 lead in the third set, and the match was all but over. The Frenchman double-faulted on break point to give Federer a 4-1 lead in the third, and Federer clinched it on his serve in 88 minutes when Tsonga hit a forehand wide.

"Yes, there are moments when it's frustrating where you can't put the ball where you want it and you make mistakes," Tsonga said.

Asked to provide advice to Murray, Tsonga said: "Be ready to run."

In the doubles final, the Williams sisters broke Huber's service to open the second set. They won the match when they again broke Huber, clinching it on a winning reflex volley by Serena. The sisters high-fived each other at the side of the court.

The Williams sisters won the Australian title for the first time in 2001 and added championships in 2003 and last year. Black, of Zimbabwe, and Huber, a South African-born American citizen, won the Australian Open doubles title in 2007 and were the top-seeded team this year.

Serena Williams will be going for a 12th Grand Slam singles title when she faces Henin. Henin's success comes only two tournaments into her return from a 20-month retirement, a comeback the Belgian herself has called "extraordinary" and Williams called an "amazing" story.

"It's more than a dream for me," Henin said Friday. "The challenge of facing the No. 1 player in the world is magnificent."

Henin and Williams agree that their center-court showdown will be as much a mental battle as a physical one.

"We both want it. But we'll just see who's playing better tomorrow," Williams said.

The two have played 13 times, including six Grand Slam showdowns that went as far as only the semifinals. Williams holds a 7-6 edge in their overall matchups. In Grand Slams, Henin leads 4-2.

Henin has said her comeback was partly inspired by that of countrywoman Kim Clijsters, who won the U.S. Open after taking off two years to get married and have a baby.

The return of Henin and Clijsters has restored some life and rivalries to the women's game, which has many promising newcomers but some lackluster finals in their absence.

If Williams wins, she will tie Billie Jean King with a dozen major titles in singles.

"It will be a defining match for both of us," Williams said. "It definitely will be mental and who wants the title more and who's willing to go the extra step."