Federer fells Karlovic to reach hometown final

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BASEL, Switzerland, Oct 27 (Reuters) World number one Roger Federer brought down towering Croatian Ivo Karlovic 7-6 7-6 today to reach the final of his hometown tournament.

Federer, defending the Swiss Indoors title he won last year, will now face unseeded Finn Jarkko Nieminen who defeated 2006 Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis 7-6 6-2.

Giving away 23 cms in height to the 2.08-metre Karlovic, Federer struggled against the Croatian's formidable serve early in the match and was forced to defend a set point at 4-5 in the opening set.

Federer missed a set point of his own in the subsequent tie-break but was offered a second chance when Karlovic slammed an easy-looking volley into the net.

The Swiss converted the point with a serve and volley to take the tie-break 8-6.

Karlovic continued to pound away at the number one, dropping just three points in his next four service games.

There was a momentary wobble at 4-5 when Karlovic offered Federer two matchpoints but he saved both with the help of his serve.

The tiebreak swung Federer's way when Karlovic produced his first double fault to surrender an early mini-break.

Federer then made a mistake of his own, hitting a backhand into the net, but was back in command when Karlovic made an almost identical error on the next point.

Offered his third and fourth matchpoints of the encounter, the world number one converted the latter thanks to a further backhand mistake by his opponent.

''It's an almost perfect scenario,'' said Federer as he looked ahead to tomorrow's final. ''I'm really happy with how the week has gone after a bit of a scare in the first round.'' ''Today's match was a lot like my (7-6 7-6) match against Karlovic in Montreal with very few chances to break. Now I just hope the home crowd can help push me to the finish tomorrow.'' HEAVY FAVOURITE Federer will be a heavy favourite against Nieminen who has lost all seven of their previous encounters, failing to take a single set.

''Playing Federer in front of his home crowd will be a great experience,'' the Finn said following his win over Baghdatis.

''Sometimes he doesn't seem human but he obviously is and the match will start at nil-nil. I'll try to come up with some good tactics and do some things different than the last seven times.'' Nieminen's encounter with Baghdatis started off evenly balanced with neither player offering the other a single break point prior to the tie-break.

After an early exchange of minibreaks, Nieminen grabbed set point with a brilliantly executed stop volley before being handed the set thanks to a Baghdatis double fault.

The Cypriot world number 24 rarely looked in contention after that, dropping his serve twice in the second set.

Baghdatis blamed his own performance on tiredness, having played doubles until past midnight yesterday.

''It was a pretty tiring day, starting with singles at midday and finishing at 12 last night,'' he said.

''I didn't get to sleep until after two in the morning. Maybe next time I'll pull out of the doubles but that wouldn't have been very fair on my partner (Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka) who really wants to win the doubles here.'' REUTERS AB RAI2315

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