Federer reaches Qatar final
Doha - Roger Federer, moving into a high gear for the first time in 2011, reached his seventh final in nine tournaments with a 6-3, 7-6 (7/2) win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the Qatar Open on Friday.
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It was an encouraging performance by Federer, who appears to have started the year with a slightly greater attacking emphasis and who answered the challenge superbly when Tsonga began to play close to his dynamic best in the second set.
The Frenchman then struck the ball with real flair and had the hint of a chance to turn the match his way when he got to deuce on Federer's serve in the sixth game.
But that just raised the Grand Slam record holder to new heights, and he won the last 18 points on his delivery without reply.
"It was a good match," said Federer, who is now within sight of winning back the title he won in 2005 and 2006.
He added: "I played well. It became a high quality match in the second set and it was right that it went to a tie-break because Tsonga played well too."
"The early break I got in the first set was crucial," Federer said. "It gave me a cushion and put him under pressure.
"But he was serving hard and controlling the outcome of a lot of the points. It made for an exciting match, with some defence but mostly attacking rallies."
It meant that defeat had its compensations for the former Australian Open finalist who spent much of 2010 with knee injury problems and had not competed since October, but is now looking forward to returning to Melbourne shortly.
But there were times when it seemed top gear might elude Tsonga. He lost his opening service game, and as a few errors sprayed from his racket, there were moments when his frustration showed.
At 1-4 he sat shaking his head, and early in the second set he flicked at a ball angrily, then bouncing his racket when he volleyed into the net.
Tsonga nevertheless kept up a decent ratio of net attacks, and with Federer increasingly taking the ball inside the baseline it made for some dramatically high-paced exchanges.
From 3-3 in the second set though Federer's serve was impeccable, and the best Tsonga could do was to hang on to his own service games. He did that despite twice being taken to deuce games, reaching 6-6 with a delightfully caressed drop volley winner.
But on the fifth point of the tie-break Tsonga charged to the net behind his serve, and found less control with a half volley drop, which floated into mid-court, allowing Federer to make a comfortable pass.
That was the first mini-break, and another followed at 2-5 when Federer initiated a heavy forehand to forehand exchange which forced Tsonga to mistime.
Federer then completed the contest with a display of speed, balance and power, moving fast to another Tsonga drop volley, controlling his dink shot played on the move, and launching two thunderous smashes to his opponent's ensuing defensive lobs.
These took Federer into the final to play either Nikolay Davydenko, the defending champion, of Rafa Nadal, the holder of three Grand Slam titles, leaving Tsonga to take the flight to Australia in a reasonably optimistic frame of mind.