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No. 1 at stake in men's semi

Published Aug. 27, 2005

It's a showdown worthy of a Grand Slam final: Roger Federer vs. Juan Carlos Ferrero, with the No. 1 ranking at stake.

One little thing. Their Australian Open match is only a semifinal.

Wimbledon champion Federer beat eighth-seeded David Nalbandian 7-5, 6-4, 5-7, 6-3 in the quarterfinals Wednesday, while French Open champion Ferrero eliminated Hicham Arazi 6-1, 7-6 (8-6), 7-6 (7-5).

"(Wednesday) was a good test, and I think I passed," Ferrero said. "I need some rest (Wednesday and today). I'm very motivated to get (No. 1) again. I'm playing very good, very solid."

He was supplanted atop the ATP Tour rankings by Andy Roddick late last season. Roddick will drop after losing to Marat Safin.

Ferrero needs to beat Federer and Andre Agassi or Safin in the final to return to No. 1. Federer will get there for the first time if he beats Ferrero.

"I think my math is good enough to figure that out," Federer said, referring to the complicated ranking system.

The women's semifinals feature Justine Henin-Hardenne and Kim Clijsters. If Henin-Hardenne beats No. 32 Fabiola Zuluaga and Clijsters gets past No. 22 Patty Schnyder, they'll meet in the third all-Belgian major final since June.

Clijsters aggravated an ankle injury while beating Anastasia Myskina 6-2, 7-6 (9-7) in the quarterfinals.

Clijsters injured her left ankle at the Hopman Cup and was sidelined for two weeks leading up to the Open. She said she would ice it, take painkillers and get it taped before deciding whether she can face Schnyder.

"I'm going to have a week off after this anyway, so I might as well go for it and give myself a shot," Clijsters said. "But, on the other hand, if I can't walk, it's stupid to go out there."

Federer has not had much success against Nalbandian in the past. He entered the match with a 1-5 record.

But the Swiss star overcame 55 unforced errors with the right shots at the right times.

At 5-all in the first set, Federer faced double-break point but ripped four straight aces to hold serve.

"I don't think I've ever hit four aces in a row," Federer said. "That was maybe the key of the match. It looked like he was going to run away with the set."

Instead, Federer grabbed the momentum, breaking Nalbandian in the next game to win the set.

Nalbandian put some pressure on by taking the third set, but Federer broke Nalbandian's service game to go up 2-0 in the fourth. He rode the advantage to finish off the match with his 20th ace and a serve Nalbandian hit long.

Ferrero held on against 51st-ranked Arazi, though he was getting tired, his injured groin muscles were aching and Arazi had him sprinting all over the court.

Arazi had knocked off No. 25 Albert Costa and No. 10 Mark Philippoussis but came out cold against Ferrero, who won seven straight games spanning the first and second sets.

BUYING SUPPORT: Patty Schnyder noticed a crowd of fans who watched her third-round match, then her fourth. So she decided to return the favor and buy them tickets to her quarterfinal win over Lisa Raymond.

"They're awesome," Schnyder said. "I didn't know them. Now I know them. It helps a lot."