Djokovic to face Federer

August 11, 2007 05:02 PM
-- Novak Djokovic had no interest in watching another final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

The third-seeded Serbian ousted Nadal, 7-5, 6-3, on Saturday to advance to the finals of the $2.45 million Rogers Cup. Djokovic's opponent in Sunday's final at the hardcourt tournament is Federer, who advanced Saturday with a 7-6 (8-6), 6-2 victory over unseeded Czech Radek Stepanek.

The world's Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, Federer and Nadal were on course for their fifth meeting in the finals this season. But Djokovic spoiled the those plans in reaching his fifth final of 2007.

The 20-year-old saved all eight of the break points he faced and ripped 11 aces as he won 80 percent (37-of-46) of his first-serve points against the second-seeded Nadal, who was 5-1 in the all-time series entering Saturday.

This was the second showdown between the two players in slighty more than a month, as Nadal took advantage of a retirement by Djokovic to reach the final at Wimbledon in early July.

Djokovic was forced to stop play due to a blister on his foot and a back injury after having to endure three marathon matches prior to that, including a five-setter against Marcos Baghdatis in the quarterfinals that lasted more than five hours.

Nadal, who also dispatched Djokovic in the semifinals at the French Open, had won the previous three meetings with the Serbian.

Ranked fourth in the world, Djokovic will have to end a similar trend against Federer if he hopes to secure his sixth career title and fourth this season.

The defending champion here, Federer has won all four career meetings between the pair, including hardcourt victories this season at the Australian Open and Dubai. This will be the first time they have met in the finals.

Gunning for his 50th career singles title, Federer recorded 13 aces without any double faults en route to winning his 16th straight match in this event.

"I was very happy with the way I played," Federer said. "I thought it was a tough match with a lot of crucial points, with a lot of shots played on reaction. I couldn't really dictate play, because he kept coming at me, and I did well."

Stepanek, who had upset a seeded player in each of his previous three matches here, went toe-to-toe with the Swiss star in the first set as both players cashed in on their service games. Both Stepanek and Federer saved three breaks in the opening set.

Falling behind, 6-3, in the tiebreaker, Stepanek stormed back to forge a 6-6 tie until Federer captured the final two points.

"The first set was the key for the match," Stepanek said. "I had chances at 3-3 to break Roger's serve and didn't use them. In the tiebreak, it's always 50-50. Roger hit an unbelievable return on set point when I hit a second serve around (115 miles per hour), and just made a winner out of that. That just proves that he's the No. 1 player in the world."

Federer finally broke down the 28-year-old in the second, notching a pair of breaks on four chances. Stepanek managed to win just eight percent (1-for-13) of the points on his first serve after the opening set.

"I came up with some really nice passing shots when I had to," Federer said. "It was also a bit easier physically after yesterday's tough match with (Lleyton) Hewitt. So I'm happy with my performance."

It was Federer's third win in four career meetings. Stepanek collected his lone victory in the series in 2002.

Federer, who was unable to appear here in 2005 due to injury, is looking for his third title in four years.

The semifinal showing continued a strong hardcourt season for Stepanek, who picked up his first title of the season and second of his career at Los Angeles last month.

"This week was great for me," the Czech said. "I played three top-10 players in four days, so it's definitely a good sign that I'm on my way back. I'm able to compete with the best ones. And today I had an opportunity to really have a battle with the best one."

First prize is $400,000.