Four-time defending champion Federer, Nadal back in Wimbledon final

By: By CHRIS LEHOURITES
By: By CHRIS LEHOURITES

WIMBLEDON, England (AP) -- Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will meet in another Grand Slam final.

Four-time defending champion Federer reached his ninth consecutive major final Saturday, beating Richard Gasquet 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 on the grass courts of the All England Club.

"It has become sort of a routine, but I'm still so excited to be back in the final," said Federer, who beat Nadal to win last year's title but lost to the Spaniard in the last two French Open finals.

Nadal set up a rematch at Wimbledon when No. 4 Novak Djokovic withdrew while trailing 3-6, 6-1, 4-1.

"I'm going to have a very difficult match tomorrow, but I'm going to try my best," said Nadal, a three-time champion at Roland Garros.

In the women's final, Venus Williams won her fourth Wimbledon championship and sixth Grand Slam title by beating No. 18 Marion Bartoli 6-4, 6-1.

"This is quite obviously a great surface for me," Williams said. "I feel like I know when to play it high or when to play it low. I know pretty much how the ball's going to bounce."

At No. 31, Williams became the lowest-ranked women's winner in Wimbledon history.

Bartoli, who upset top-ranked Justine Henin to reach her first Grand Slam final, came back from 3-0 down in the first set but couldn't continue her surprising run.

Federer's win was his 53rd straight on grass. He finished with 20 aces, including one on a second serve in the final game of the match.

Gasquet matched Federer for most of the first set, but the top-ranked Swiss player saved all three break points he faced, including two at 5-5. Federer saved the first with an ace and the next with a forehand winner before winning the next two points. Including those four points, Federer won 44 of the final 54 points on his serve.

"If I did this break point, everything can happen if I win the first set," Gasquet said.

With Gasquet serving at 6-5, the Frenchman was only two points away from forcing a first-set tiebreaker, but Federer won four straight points to take the set.

"The first set was crucial," Federer said. "He should have at least got to the tiebreaker. I came out somehow and played really well for 10 minutes and was up a set and a break, and that was pretty much it after that."

In the second set, Federer held in the first game and then broke again, eventually taking a 3-0 lead.

After the set ended, the 12th-seeded Gasquet called for a trainer to look at his left ankle. His ferocious backhands and whipping cross-court forehands again won him points, but Federer was too good, breaking Gasquet to lead 4-3 in the final set.

The 25-year-old Federer, who is the oldest of the four men's semifinalists, is trying to win a fifth consecutive Wimbledon title, something only Bjorn Borg has done in the past 100 years. Borg, who won his titles from 1976-80, watched the match from the stands, wearing a purple-and-green tie -- the colors of the All England Club.

"It is tricky when you see him sitting there because he is a living legend," Federer said. "I have so much respect for him that it is great that he's here. I hope I can do the job tomorrow."

Gasquet came back from a two-set deficit to beat Andy Roddick on Friday in the quarterfinals.

"Everything was difficult because I finished at 8:00 (p.m.) yesterday," Gasquet said. "I have to play at noon, so that's not easy. I was tired."

Federer didn't look tired. The 10-time Grand Slam champion dropped his first set of the tournament in Friday's quarterfinals, but hadn't played a full match in one day since beating Marat Safin in the third round last Friday.

Nadal pressured Djokovic early, earning three break points in the first game but failing to convert. Djokovic then broke Nadal in the second game, and only conceded three more points on his serve for the rest of the set.

"I start the match playing bad," Nadal said. "But I was practicing before the warmup bad, too."

The second set started with Nadal holding and then breaking Djokovic's serve. After Nadal evened the match at one set apiece, Djokovic called for a trainer. He got the little toe on his left foot bandaged because of a blister.

"In the first game of second set, second game, I have the break," Nadal said. "That's decisive in the match ... because I get confidence there."

In the third set, Djokovic continued to hobble but saved two break points in the opening game.

Then, serving at 1-1, 30-30, he put a forehand wide and dropped to the grass, rocking on the balls of his feet. His next shot was a forehand into the net.

Nadal held easily to lead 3-1 and forced another two break points in the fifth game. Djokovic saved one but hit a forehand into the net on the second. The trainer immediately returned and Djokovic soon decided to retire.

"I got to look on a positive side," said Djokovic, who also lost to Nadal in the French Open semifinals. "I showed here that I really deserve being in (the) last four in Wimbledon, and I think all the major tournaments."

Djokovic said he even considered withdrawing before the match because of the blister and back pain.

"It's really infected," said Djokovic, who played five sets Friday in the quarterfinals. "I didn't sleep during the night because I had a lot of bleeding and everything, so I was barely walking this morning."

Djokovic also withdrew against Nadal in the quarterfinals of the French Open last year.

Both players have spent a lot of time on court over the past few days because of the massive backlog created by persistent rain throughout the tournament.

Nadal played two five-setters before reaching the semifinals Friday with a straight-set win. But Djokovic needed five sets against Marcos Baghdatis in the quarterfinals, and four sets in each of the previous two rounds.


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