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New No. 1 seeks to remain on roll

Roger Federer picks his spots to celebrate, and surely, this was one of them.

The Wimbledon champion fell to his knees and raised his arms after overwhelming Juan Carlos Ferrero on Friday to reach the Australian Open final and gain the No. 1 ranking.

"Relief for me was Wimbledon," Federer said. "No. 1, obviously, it's something I've been close to the last few months. But I could never take my chance. To now make it, I love it!"

Federer won his semifinal 6-4, 6-1, 6-4 for a spot in tonight's final against Marat Safin, who has beaten Andy Roddick and defending champion Andre Agassi in his past two matches.

Federer will be the 23rd man to hold the No. 1 spot since the ATP's computer rankings were introduced in 1973. The Swiss star missed a chance at the top spot in August, when he lost a semifinal to Roddick in Montreal.

The No. 1 ranking was at stake after Roddick lost in the quarterfinals. Federer, seeded second, needed 89 minutes to dismiss the third-seeded Ferrero.

Federer was methodical and relentless, and he will need to be so again against Safin, who is playing as he did in 2000, when he won the U.S. Open and reached No. 1.

"I don't know how many people knew how much there was in this for me," Federer said. "So I just really wanted to enjoy that moment for myself and the people who knew that I was playing for No. 1 in the world."

Federer has dropped only two sets in six matches. Safin has spent about 19 hours on the court and gone to five sets three times, including against Agassi on Thursday.

Federer said he knew Safin had the game to win a big tournament. But he was surprised the Russian was in a final so soon after last season's wrist problems.

"It's good to see him back," he said. "We're all happy, but we're scared at the same time."

Safin is here for one reason.

"I came here to try to win it. And I'm almost there; just one left to go," he said.

"Everything is going my way for the moment."

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