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Safin books meeting with Federer

By Ben Dirs
BBC Sport at Wimbledon

Marat Safin
Safin is through to his first Grand Slam semi-final since 2005

Former world number one Marat Safin reached the Wimbledon semi-finals for the first time with a 3-6 7-5 7-6 (7-1) 6-3 win over Feliciano Lopez.

The Russian will now meet five-time champion Roger Federer.

Lopez, the 31st seed, made a superb start, forging a 5-2 lead in the first set before rain forced the players off.

Safin, a two-time Grand Slam winner, lost that first set but returned refreshed, gradually grinding his Spanish opponent into submission.

Safin, 28, will face Federer on Friday in his first Grand Slam semi-final since 2005 - when he beat the world number one in the last four on his way to the Australian Open title.

Safin grateful for calming rain break

"I want to believe I'm back. I have gone up a few steps in the rankings, back in the top 50, which is great," he said.

"No matter what I do against Roger it has been a great two weeks.

"I was too nervous to play good tennis at the beginning and had to calm down.

"I started a bit nervous because I had never beaten him in a big tournament and he's a very difficult player who was full of confidence, but I got a lucky break and that made a difference."

Safin, who has tumbled to 75th in the world rankings, was a picture of frustration before rain intervened in the opening set, and was handed a code violation for ball abuse in game six.

However, Safin was a different player after the restart, mixing things up behind his serve and breaking Lopez twice as the Spaniard's forehand began to malfunction.

606: DEBATE

Lopez, who has never reached the last four at a Grand Slam, began to show signs of dejection in the third set, although his strong first serve carried him into a tie-break.

But Safin did not have to stretch himself much to seal the set, Lopez making a string of unforced errors to lose the tie-break 7-1 and fall 2-1 behind in sets.

Safin produced a rash of lacerating passing shots in the fourth set and broke Lopez twice as he stormed into a 5-2 lead.

And although the 26-year-old Lopez did claw one break back, the mercurial Safin held his nerve to seal the match.

Lopez said: "He was a better player than me today. After losing the second set I really went down and lost all my confidence.

"He started to play better and better. But it's tough to predict what he can do against Federer because Roger is the king of the grass."

see also
Safin v Lopez as it happened
02 Jul 08 |  Tennis
Wimbledon photos
02 Jul 08 |  Tennis


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