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Flawless Federer in final

Published:Saturday | January 30, 2010 | 12:00 AM


Roger Federer of Switzerland returns to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France during the men's singles semi-final match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, yesterday.

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP):

Roger Federer is through to his 22nd Grand Slam final after defeating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 in a near-flawless display yesterday at the Australian Open.

Federer, seeking his fourth Australian title, hopes to reverse his tear-filled exit from last year's final when he was beaten by Rafael Nadal, the left-handed Spaniard's first hard-court title.

This time, the man between Federer and another title here tomorrow will be Andy Murray, whose motivation has been fuelled by a 74-year drought for British men in Grand Slam singles. He's taking part in his second final, having been beaten at the US Open in 2008 by Federer.

Murray beat Marin Cilic in the Australian Open semi-finals after ousting Nadal in the quarter-finals. Now, hopes are high in the United Kingdom that he could be the first British man since Fred Perry in 1936 to win a major singles title.

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

Later, Federer, in a calm, casual way, sent some verbal shots to Murray.

"I don't feel like the pressure's really on me having to do it again because I did it before," said Federer, who has won a record 15 Grand Slam singles titles.

"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."

Drought may continue

If Federer plays tomorrow the way he did yesterday against Tsonga, the drought could continue for at least another Grand Slam.

"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 semi-final loss here to Novak Djokovic in 2008 was 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," added Federer. "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 24-year-old 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."

Today, Serena Wiliams will be gunning for a 12th singles Grand Slam title in women's final against Justine Henin.

Henin's stunning success comes only two tournaments into her return from a 20-month retirement, a comeback that the Belgian herself has called "extraordinary" and Williams called an "amazing" story.

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

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

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