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Comfortable on clay

Corretja slides into semifinals with win against Federer

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Posted: Wednesday June 06, 2001 9:03 AM
Updated: Wednesday June 06, 2001 10:09 AM
  Alex Corretja Alex Corretja hasn't lost a set since the first round. AP

PARIS (Reuters) -- Spain's Alex Corretja eased into the French Open semifinals for the second time in four years on Wednesday with a 7-5, 6-4, 7-5 victory over unseeded Swiss Roger Federer.

The 13th-seeded Corretja, runner-up to compatriot Carlos Moya at Roland Garros in 1998, never looked entirely comfortable on a cold morning.

Federer was unable to find the consistency to trouble him, though, and the Spaniard's outstanding backhand proved his dominant weapon once again as he claimed his fourth successive straight-sets win of the tournament.

"This run of three-set matches is giving me real confidence," said Corretja, who had to come through a tough five-setter in the first round against Mariano Zabaleta before finding his best form.

"This match was tougher than the score might suggest because Roger is a good player who has made a lot of progress recently.

"I'm highly satisfied with this win after going out in the quarterfinals for the last two years."

After an early exchange of breaks in the first set, the Spanish claycourt specialist edged ahead at 6-5 with a break and served out as Federer punched a forehand long at the end of a typically long rally.

There were two breaks of serve apiece at the start of the second before Corretja took a 4-3 lead that proved decisive, a beautifully executed stop volley clinching his fourth break point.

The third set followed a similar pattern, with neither player looking solid on serve.

Corretja missed his first chance to serve for the match at 5-4, Federer breaking back to level, but the Swiss was broken again in the next game and Corretja moved to the brink of victory when he opened up a 40-15 lead.

Corretja missed two simple backhands to offer his opponent a glimmer of hope and the 19-year-old Federer led a charmed life when an outrageous net-cord saved him on a third match point.

Corretja refused to buckle, however, completing victory at the fourth attempt with a fine angled backhand.

"I did struggle a little on the match points," Corretja said. "But my backhand saved me yet again."

Corretja became the second Spaniard through to the last four, following Juan Carlos Ferrero's three-set win over Lleyton Hewitt on Tuesday.

The 27-year-old Corretja will next meet the winner of Wednesday's second quarterfinal between third seed Andre Agassi and No. 10 Sebastien Grosjean.

Top seed Gustavo Kuerten plays No. 4 Ferrero in the other semifinal.

Related information
Ferrero destroys tired Hewitt in quarterfinals
Vanquished Kafelnikov pays tribute to Kuerten's artistry
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