Federer extends streak of Grand Slam semifinals to 23

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — The only three men to beat Roger Federer in the last 19 majors were already out of the Australian Open, leaving the Swiss star with a new threat to face.

Nikolay Davydenko’s 13-match winning streak was the hottest on the tour and included two wins over Federer during title runs at the season-ending championships in November and the season-opening event at Doha earlier this month.

The Russian unloaded everything he had on Federer for a set and a half Wednesday and was suddenly in uncharted territory at a Grand Slam tournament.

That’s when a bit of gamesmanship and a lot of big-match experience helped Federer switch gears and win 13 straight games en route to a 2-6, 6-3, 6-0, 7-5 victory that sent Davydenko packing to join Federer’s former Grand Slam conquerors: No. 2-ranked Rafael Nadal, No. 3-ranked Novak Djokovic, and No. 4-ranked Juan Martin del Potro.

“Winning that many games in a row against a player that’s been on fire like this, it’s a great sign,” Federer said.

The win stretched his record to a 23rd consecutive Grand Slam semifinal appearance, something he rated as “definitely one of the most incredible things I have in my resume.”

Before Federer, Ivan Lendl and Rod Laver shared the record at 10.

Besides his incredible run of Grand Slam semifinals that began at Wimbledon in 2004, Federer boasts three Australian Open wins among his record 15 major titles and 50 wins or more at three of the four biggest tournaments in tennis.

Defending champion Nadal, who beat Federer in five sets in last year’s final here and at Wimbledon in 2008 and at three French Opens, retired with a knee injury while trailing No. 5 Andy Murray in the third set of their quarterfinal on Tuesday night.

Del Potro, who beat Federer to win the U.S. Open in September, lost to Marin Cilic.

Djokovic, who beat Federer in the semifinals here in 2008 en route to the title, complained of an upset stomach following a 7-6 (8), 6-7 (5), 1-6, 6-3, 6-1 loss to Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Tsonga, whose last two wins came in the only five-set matches he’s played 11 Grand Slam tournaments, will meet Federer on Friday in the other semifinal.

Federer said he’s more concerned about who was still in contention than who had dropped out. The only time he’d ever felt different was at the last French Open, after defending champion Nadal tumbled out, opening the way for Federer to complete a career Grand Slam by winning on clay and to equal Pete Sampras’ record 14 majors.

“It had a huge affect on me that Rafa lost at the French, just knowing the opportunities I had and being already occupied with my own game and opponents,” he said.

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