MASON, Ohio Heat. Wind. Thunder. Drizzle. Roger Federer took everything that the afternoon and Robby Ginepri could throw at him, and found a way to overcome it.
Federer rallied for a 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 semifinal victory Saturday in the $2.45 million Cincinnati Masters, leaving no doubt that the world’s No. 1 player is back in form and ready for the U.S. Open’s top spot.
Federer will try for his ninth tournament title of the season Sunday against Andy Roddick, who beat third-seeded Lleyton Hewitt 6-4, 7-6 (4) in the other semifinal. History weighs against Roddick, who is 1-9 career against Federer and has lost their last five matches, including the last two Wimbledon finals.
Overall, Federer has won the last 21 times he reached a tournament final.
‘‘I play my best in the finals, in the important matches,’’ Federer said. ‘‘That’s why I’m No. 1.’’
He took five weeks off after winning his third consecutive Wimbledon title, getting some rest and letting a sore foot heal. Federer was out of sync when he showed up in Cincinnati, looking to regain his edge and confidence.
A few matches were all he needed.
‘‘I really feel I’ve got my confidence back,’’ said Federer, who is 63-3 this season, including 37-1 on hard courts. ‘‘My footwork is back, the eye is back watching the ball, reading the game. Definitely I’m feeling really good right now.’’
He extended his winning streak to 17 matches under trying conditions, facing an American who was on a summer-long roll and had the crowd behind him. They’d faced each other once before, when Ginepri was an awed 18-year-old at the 2001 U.S. Open. He was overwhelmed by the setting and the opponent, losing a lopsided second-round match in straight sets.
This time, Ginepri knew he belonged and took Federer to the limit.
Playing on a broiling, 94-degree afternoon in wind gusts that toyed with shots, Ginepri used his biggest advantage his accurate serve to full advantage. Ginepri had lost only one game on his serve all week, and was the only player who hadn’t dropped a set heading into the semifinals.
Ginepri broke Federer’s serve to go up 5-4 in the first set, setting up the break point by swatting an overhead back at him. He screamed ‘‘Yeah!’’ when his crosscourt forehand closed out the set.
‘‘I think he was a little uptight in the first few games of the first set,’’ said Ginepri, who stayed calm throughout his first ATP Masters semifinal. ‘‘It was a little gusty out there that could have been a factor as well.’’
Not for long. Sensing his predicament, Federer played his best.
‘‘I’m not allowed to make any more mistakes or it’s all over,’’ Federer summed up. ‘‘I was aware of that.’’
Federer broke Ginepri’s serve to take the second set 7-5. The third set also stayed on serve until the final game, when Ginepri sailed a backhand return wide to lose serve and the match.
Ginepri is having his best summer on the tour, winning his second career ATP title at Indianapolis last month. A first-round loss at Wimbledon inspired him to work harder on his game he spends an extra 45 minutes a day in practice and an additional 45 minutes working out.
With a sculpted body and a sharper focus, Ginepri has gone 14-3 on hard courts this year. He never got a toehold against Federer, who allowed him only one break point during the match.
Henin-Hardenne, Clijsters advance to Rogers Cup final
TORONTO Fourth-seeded Justine Henin-Hardenne beat defending champion Amelie Mauresmo 7-5, 3-6, 6-1 on Saturday night to set up a championship match against fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters in the Rogers Cup.
Clijsters, seeded seventh, beat No. 9 Anastasia Myskina of Russia 6-4, 6-1.
‘‘She’s probably the best defending player out there at the moment,’’ Clijsters said about Henin-Hardenne. ‘‘She’s very fit. She just has this incredible touch with her hands, especially with her slice. I mean, she can just keep getting those balls back.
‘‘It’s not like they float up. You have to be always there expecting every ball back against her.’’
A winner of two of the last three WTA Tour events, Clijsters has won a tour-leading five titles this year.
Henin-Hardenne, who won the tournament in 2003, is having a solid year after her 2004 season was marred by an energy-sapping virus. She is 31-2 this season with four titles, including the French Open, and appears to have recovered from a recent hamstring injury.
For the second straight day, Myskina wore a bulky splint on her sprained left ankle, which she injured during her win Thursday over Shinobu Asagoe of Japan.
They played to a 4-4 tie in the first set, but Clijsters held serve and converted a break when Myskina’s shot sailed long. In the second set, Myskina seemed to lose steam as Clijsters took a 2-0 lead and dominated the rest of the way.
‘‘She did a good thing to move me around,’’ Myskina said. ‘‘Then I got really tired by the second set. If I would have won the first set, maybe that would be different in the second.’’
Clijsters used her characteristic acrobatic play to chase down balls. Despite the injury, Myskina defeated Gisela Dulka 6-4, 7-5 in the quarterfinals on Friday.
‘‘Even when she’s on the run, she can hit it so hard and flat,’’ Clijsters said. ‘‘That’s definitely one of her strengths.’’
Myskina was uncertain whether she’d be ready to play at the Pilot Penn next week in New Haven, Conn.
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