Sharapova, Williams enter final

Melbourne, January 25:

Top-ranked Roger Federer routed Andy Roddick 6-4, 6-0, 6-2 on Thursday to advance to the Australian Open final.

Roddick had hoped that his net-charging tactics, implemented by coach Jimmy Connors after Wimbledon last year, would help him close the gap with Federer. He beat the Swiss star at an exhibition tournament less than two weeks ago.

But after looking vulnerable in some of his earlier matches, Federer was virtually untouchable as he reached his seventh consecutive Grand Slam final. He ran off 11 consecutive games against sixth-seeded Roddick. Seeking his 10th Grand Slam title, he blunted Roddick’s powerful serve and whipped passing shots seemingly at will.

Roddick, who often stared at Federer as if he couldn’t believe what he was seeing, won only nine of his 31 approaches to the net, and had only 11 winners. Federer had 45 winners and just 12 unforced errors. Federer will play the winner of Friday’s semi-final between Fernando Gonzalez and Tommy Haas.

Serena Williams earlier proved her doubters wrong. Unseeded after an injury-plagued 2006 that limited her to four tournaments, the former world No 1 reached her first Grand Slam final in two years, beating Nicole Vaidisova 7-6 (5), 6-4 to reach the women’s final.

Standing in the way of an eighth Grand Slam title — she already has two here — is top-seeded Maria Sharapova. Sharapova turned her semi-final against No 4 Kim Clijsters into an Australian farewell match for the 23-year-old Belgian, who is retiring at the end of the year, with a 6-4, 6-2 victory. Clijsters got two standing ovations as she said goodbye to Rod Laver Arena.

Williams and Sharapova are 2-2 in head-to-heads. Williams won their last encounter after saving match points in the semi-finals here two years ago before going on to win the title. Ranked No 81 coming into the tournament after dropping out of the top 100 last year while dealing with a bad knee, Williams guaranteed herself a return to the top 20.