Venus in finals; Federer, Nadal into semis |

Venus in finals; Federer, Nadal into semis

Venus Williams of the US reacts after defeating Ana Ivanovic of Serbia, in their Women's Singles semifinal on the Centre Court at Wimbledon, Friday July 6, 2007. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth) ** EDITORIAL USE ONLY **

WIMBLEDON, England ” Venus Williams reached the Wimbledon final for the sixth time by dominating another player in the top 10 rankings.

The three-time champion at the All England Club beat No. 6 Ana Ivanovic 6-2, 6-4 Friday in the semifinals to become, at No. 31, the lowest-ranked woman to reach the final since the rankings began in 1975.

“I was playing well in the first set and I didn’t give her any chances,” said Williams, who was ranked 16th when she won Wimbledon in 2005, the lowest previous ranking. “In the second, there were one or two games when I didn’t play as well as I wanted to.”

Williams will play top-ranked Justine Henin or Marion Bartoli in Saturday’s final.

In the men’s draw, four-time defending champion Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic reached the semifinals. Andy Roddick was playing Richard Gasquet in the other quarterfinal.

Williams started the season with a wrist injury. Seeded only 23rd at the All England Club, she struggled early in the tournament, coming within two points of defeat against 59th-ranked Alla Kudryavtseva in the first round and trailing 5-3 in the third set against 71st-ranked Akiko Morigami in the third round.

In the fourth round, Williams easily beat No. 2 Maria Sharapova in a match that started Tuesday but was suspended for the night by rain after only three points were played. On Thursday, Williams eliminated fifth-ranked Svetlana Kuznetsova.

“There’s been so much rain and I was the one playing catch up. I was the one behind the rest of the draw,” Williams said. “So it’s exciting to be the first one in the final.”

Williams started strong Friday, winning 12 of the first 16 points to break Ivanovic twice and eventually take a 4-0 lead.

She had three match points while leading 5-3, but Ivanovic saved them all and made Williams serve out the match. On the fourth match point, Ivanovic sent a backhand wide.

Federer dropped a set for the first time this year at the All England Club, but still beat Juan Carlos Ferrero 7-6 (2), 3-6, 6-1, 6-3.

“OK, a set is lost, but a match isn’t lost,” said Federer, who beat Nadal in last year’s final.

Federer was broken in the first set Thursday, when he and Ferrero played for 37 minutes before play was suspended by rain at deuce at 5-5. The 10-time Grand Slam champion won the opening two points on serve Friday, and then easily won the tiebreaker after Ferrero held.

On match point with Ferrero serving, Federer flicked a cross-court forehand that Ferrero couldn’t reach.

Ferrero, the 2003 French Open champion and a former No. 1, broke Federer to go up 5-3 in the second set and then served it out, but that was the end of the Spaniard’s influence on the match.

“He served very well in the second set,” Federer said. “I missed a couple shots. But it’s been kind of a strange week.”

From 1-1 in third set, Federer won 20 of next 24 points to take the set.

Before his brief spell on court Thursday, the top-ranked Federer had not played since beating Marat Safin last Friday in the third round. His fourth-round opponent, Tommy Haas, withdrew with an injury, giving Federer almost a week off.

“It was hard for me. I had many days off,” Federer said. “I’m just really happy I came through it and I’m back in the rhythm now.”

Federer, who stretched his grass-court winning streak to 52, is trying to win a fifth consecutive Wimbledon title, something only Bjorn Borg has done in the past 100 years.

Nadal was broken once early in the first set, but didn’t faced any more serious challenges in beating Tomas Berdych 7-6 (1), 6-4, 6-2. He broke the Czech in the opening games of the second and third sets.

Nadal had his first match point on Berdych’s serve at 5-1 in the third set, but the Czech erased it with an ace. Nadal wasted another in the next game, but won when Berdych sent a forehand into the net.

“I had to concentrate with the movement because the ball was very difficult to touch,” Nadal said. “Today was very tough with the wind, but anyway I played very good.”

The second-seeded Spaniard was stretched to five sets in the previous two rounds, with the former being played over a span of three days at the All England Club. If he wins Saturday’s semifinal against Djokovic, then Sunday’s final would mark Nadal’s seventh consecutive day on court.

“Two very, very tough games, tough matches against (Robin) Soderling and (Mikhail) Youzhny,” Nadal said. “The most important thing is the victory.”

Djokovic, who has also played on each the last five days, needed exactly five hours to beat Marcos Baghdatis 7-6 (4), 7-6 (9), 6-7 (3), 4-6, 7-5. The longest Wimbledon singles match every played on one day lasted only five minutes longer.

Nadal is trying to become the first man to win the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year since Bjorn Borg in 1980. He has won the last three titles at Roland Garros.

Berdych was playing in the quarterfinals at a Grand Slam for the first time. He won the grass-court warm-up tournament in Halle, Germany, in the absence of Federer, but struggled Friday with several bad hops. In the final game, a serve from Nadal took another awkward bounce that went toward his body.

“He’s not making a lot of mistakes,” Berdych said of Nadal. “He’s trying to play similar game like on the clay.”

Rain on nine of the first 10 days of the tournament created a huge backlog in the schedule, forcing many of the remaining men and women to play on consecutive days.

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