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Federer, Coria will clash in final


HAMBURG, Germany -- Roger Federer continued his claycourt improvement by crushing Lleyton Hewitt 6-0 6-4 in the semi-finals of the Hamburg Masters.

The world number one will face defending champion Guillermo Coria on Sunday in the perfect final between the top two seeds and two serious candidates for victory at the French Open starting on May 24.

Argentine Coria, the second seed, extended an impressive winning streak on clay but had to battle for nearly two hours to beat Croatian Ivan Ljubicic 3-6 6-1 6-4 in the other semi-final.

Swiss Federer played close to perfection and Hewitt admitted there was little he could do.

"He was just too good," said the Australian. "In that form he's going to be tough to beat for anyone."

Federer was in a class of his own in the first set, which he wrapped up in 24 minutes with a backhand drop shot on set point.

Hewitt was a break down in the second set when he briefly gave the impression he could fight back. Federer, leading 5-3, served for the match but wasted a match point by hitting a backhand wide and was broken.

Federer reacted immediately, breaking Hewitt in the next game with the Australian netting a backhand on match point.

"It would be difficult," Federer said when asked whether he could play any better than he had in the first set.

"I really can't complain. The second set was closer but overall I'm very satisfied with the way I played.

"I needed time to adapt to clay but now I feel it's coming together," added the 22-year-old Federer, who had made a second-round exit at last week's Rome Masters.

The gifted Swiss all-rounder, who made his breakthrough by winning the Hamburg title two years ago, had lost seven of his previous 10 meetings with Hewitt but had never faced him on clay.

Hewitt feels more at ease on quicker surfaces but Coria is the ultimate claycourt specialist and could give Federer a hard time on Sunday.

The 22-year-old Coria has won 31 matches in a row on clay, including all 16 he has played this season. The last time he lost on the slow surface was his semi-final defeat at last year's French Open.

Ljubicic made a promising start, managing the telling break in the eighth game of the first set before taking the set with a backhand volley, but he collapsed in the second set.

The decisive set was close until Coria broke his opponent in the seventh game. Two games later he served for the match and Ljubicic bowed out by sending a backhand into the net on the first match point.


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