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Federer, Roddick headed for men's finals showdown



Published: Wed, June 29, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The two-time defending champ could become the third to win three straight.

WIMBLEDON, England (AP) -- Roger Federer hasn't lost a match on grass in more than three years, a run that includes the last two Wimbledon titles and a spot in the quarterfinals at this year's tournament.

To win again at the All England Club -- joining Bjorn Borg and Pete Sampras as the only men in the past 70 years to win three straight Wimbledons -- the top-ranked Federer might have to beat 2002 champion Lleyton Hewitt in the semifinals and Andy Roddick in the final.

"My goal for this year is Wimbledon, No. 1 in the world," Federer said. "I'm right in it now. I have to prove it -- to myself especially."

Gonzalez up next

First, today, Federer has to face Fernando Gonzalez, the first Chilean to reach the men's quarterfinals since Ricardo Acuna in 1985.

Hewitt, who has missed much of this year's tour because of injury, is likely to be next, if the Australian can get past surprise quarterfinalist Feliciano Lopez of Spain.

Roddick, seeded second, is the favorite to advance from the bottom half of the draw. He faces practice partner Sebastien Grosjean in the quarterfinals, and the winner will play either David Nalbandian or Thomas Johansson.

None of those three players would be easy for Roddick to beat.

Grosjean has reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon three consecutive years, Nalbandian played in the final in 2002 and Johansson won the 2002 Australian Open.

"I'm not good enough to overlook the next two matches and look ahead," Roddick said. "So I have to get through these first."

Federer is still the man to beat.

Record streak

The Swiss player has won an Open-era record of 20 consecutive ATP finals, including seven this year, and has a 55-3 record in 2005. His only losses were to Marat Safin, Richard Gasquet and Rafael Nadal.

The losses to Safin and Nadal came in Grand Slam semifinals, and both went on to win the title.

On grass, however, Federer continues to dominate. He has won 33 consecutive matches on the fast surface, second in the Open era only to Borg, who won 41 straight from 1976-81, including five Wimbledon titles.

Gonzalez, the only player who has not lost a set during the tournament, will be trying to end Federer's streak and reach his first Grand Slam semifinal.

Roddick won his only major title 21 months ago at the 2003 U.S. Open. His serve has never been a problem, but he thinks he needs to improve on coming to the net and returning.

"I think those are the two things that will be key for me," Roddick said. "Those are probably more specific to Wimbledon.

"I always look to put a lot of first serves in," he said. "I fell like that puts pressure on people."

World's best returner

Hewitt, the world's No. 2 player, is possibly the best returner in the game. He's hoping to improve his serve.

"If I can hold my service games a little bit more comfortably and go out there and clean up my service games, then obviously that's going to help me, especially on this surface," said Hewitt, who underwent foot surgery this spring, then missed the French Open after cracking two ribs when he fell down stairs at his home in Sydney.

The left-handed Lopez, the first Spaniard to reach the men's final eight since Manuel Orantes in 1972, will be trying to add Hewitt to his list of upsets. Lopez beat Safin in the third round and 2004 semifinalist Mario Ancic on Monday in the fourth round.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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