Serena, Safina set up title clash

Melbourne, January 29:

Roger Federer powered past Andy Roddick and into the Australian Open final today as Serena Williams set up a tantalising clash with Dinara Safina for the world No 1 ranking.

The Swiss second seed was at his awesome best and crushed old rival Andy Roddick 6-2, 7-5, 7-5 to clock his 16th career victory over the American, who admits Federer has been the bane of his tennis life.

The resounding win puts Federer into his 18th Grand Slam final, just one behind the record held by Ivan Lendl. He has won 13 of them and is now searching for a 14th to equal Pete Sampras’s all-time mark. Federer will meet either world No 1 Rafael Nadal or Fernando Verdasco in the final.

Like Federer, the second seeded Williams is gunning for a fourth Australian Open title and she too is peaking at the right time as she ended Elena Dementieva’s 15-match winning streak 6-3, 6-4.

She threw off the service problems that have dogged her throughout the tournament for a convincing victory.

Third-seeded Safina lost her only Grand Slam final at last year’s French Open but looks capable of making the breakthrough after battling past fellow Russian and seventh seed Vera Zvonareva 6-3, 7-6 (7/4). Adding spice to Saturday’s decider is the chance to claim the world’s top ranking, with the winner dethroning Jelena Jankovic who crashed out in the fourth round. The odds were against Williams with Dementieva on a hot win streak this year, but the American blasted 10 aces as the Russian’s service game fell apart. Williams has not been at her best during the tournament and has admitted she was rusty, which made Thursday’s win all the more pleasing. It was heartbreaking for Dementieva, who was eliminated in a Grand Slam semi-final for the third straight time as her elusive maiden Major title again slipped from her grasp.

Meanwhile a focused Safina was too steady for Zvonareva

as she powered to the straight-sets win, giving herself

the chance to emulate older brother Marat by winning the Australian Open. The chance to claim the N0 1 ranking is another major motivator for the 22-year-old from Moscow.

Safina, whose form has fluctuated throughout the tournament, was all business as she took to the court against Zvonareva, taking advantage of a nervous start from her fellow Russian and never looking back.