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Wimbledon: Federer routs Ancic, faces Safin in semis

WIMBLEDON, England - Lest anyone forget that Roger Federer has, indeed, lost at Wimbledon, the BBC filled time during a rain delay Wednesday by rolling tape of his 2002 first-round exit against Mario Ancic.

That, of course, was the last time Federer stepped on a court at the All England Club - or anywhere on grass, for that matter - and walked away without winning.

Once Wednesday's weather cleared up, Federer faced off against Ancic on Centre Court once more, only this time they were playing in the 2008 quarterfinals, and it was no contest whatsoever. The top-ranked Federer dismissed Ancic 6-1, 7-5, 6-4 to extend all manner of streaks: 39 consecutive wins at Wimbledon, 64 consecutive wins on grass, and 17 consecutive semifinal appearances at Grand Slam tournaments.

There were other numbers at which to marvel, not the least of which was this: Federer won 61 of 71 points on his serve.

Asked afterward if he could pick one match over his career that stands out from the rest in terms of quality, Federer replied, 'Thankfully, I get those moments quite often, actually.'

So there.

If anyone wondered whether the thumping he took from Rafael Nadal in last month's French Open final might have a lasting effect on Federer, it sure doesn't sound as though there's anything wrong with his confidence - particularly here.

'I'll have a chance to win this tournament for the next five or 10 years,' said Federer, whose semifinal opponent Friday is the resurgent Marat Safin, a former No. 1 player who owns two Grand Slam titles.

'My game's made for grass,' Federer continued. 'There will always be tough opponents, dangerous opponents. That has been the case for the last years, as well. But I found a way to win always. Of course, my dream is to not only win this year, but many more years to come.'

He is trying to become the first man since 1886 to win Wimbledon six years in a row. Pete Sampras never did it. Neither did Bjorn Borg. The only man who did? Willie Renshaw, and he only needed to win one match in each of his five title defenses, because back then the reigning champion got a bye into the final.

Federer is forced to navigate a tougher path, and the expectation this year has been that he will face his nemesis Nadal in a third straight Wimbledon championship match. The second-ranked Nadal moved closer to that by overwhelming 12th-seeded Andy Murray of Britain 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 for his 22nd consecutive victory overall.

Just like Federer did against Ancic, Nadal avoided facing a single break point against Murray, who was in his first major quarterfinal.

'I feel like the return is normally a strong part of my game. I had no chance at all really on his serve, which was a shame,' Murray said. 'He's improved his game a lot on the grass in the last couple of years. Definitely, he's the second-best grass-court player behind Federer. He's definitely closer to him this year than he was.'

Nadal agreed with that assessment.

He's trying to make a little history of his own: No man has won the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year since Borg in 1980.

'I am doing a lot of things better than last year,' Nadal said. 'Slice better. The position on court, in my opinion, I felt like this is better. Playing more aggressive with the forehand all the time, and the backhand is feeling well, too.'

The four-time French Open champion knows he'll be facing an unseeded player next, but he doesn't know which one. The quarterfinal between 94th-ranked Rainer Schuettler and 145th-ranked Arnaud Clement was suspended because of darkness at one set apiece.

They're slated to resume play today, when the forecast calls for showers, and whatever the outcome, Nadal would be an overwhelming favorite.

Safin acknowledges Federer should be looked upon that way in their matchup.

'I'm playing semifinals, but that doesn't mean that I have a chance there, because the guy has won how many times already here?' Safin said after beating No. 31 Feliciano Lopez 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (1), 6-3. 'To beat Federer you need to be Nadal and run around like a rabbit and hit winners from all over the place. ... It's just a little bit too difficult for me to beat him.'

Especially if Federer plays the way he did Wednesday.

He served brilliantly, including 15 aces - one on each of the final three points. He returned just as well, handling Ancic's 130 mph serves and limiting him to nine aces, half of what the Croat was averaging in the tournament.

Federer broke Ancic four times, and even when he didn't, made him work. The third set's opening game, for example, took 16 minutes, with 10 deuces and four break points, before Ancic finally held. It lasted 26 points, and Federer won 12 - or, put another way, two more than Ancic took off Federer's serve all match.

'There's not one point you get for free,' said Ancic, a Wimbledon semifinalist in 2005.

SideBar: Wimbledon

A look at Wimbledon on Wednesday:

· Attendance: 35,202.

· Last year: 32,636.

· Weather: Sunny. High of 64.

· Men's quarterfinals: No. 1 Roger Federer def. Mario Ancic; Marat Safin def. No. 31 Feliciano Lopez; No. 2 Rafael Nadal def. No. 12 Andy Murray; Rainer Schuettler vs. Arnaud Clement suspended by darkness, tied at a set apiece.

· Today's women's semifinals: No. 5 Elena Dementieva vs. No. 7 Venus Williams; No. 6 Serena Williams vs. Zheng Jie.

· Stat of the day: 0 - Total number of break points faced by Federer and Nadal in their quarterfinals.

· Quote of the day: 'I'm surprised that I'm still here.' - Safin after reaching his first Wimbledon semifinal.