A set of eye-popping play from Roger Federer sometimes left Janko Tipsarevic's head spinning like a weather vane whirling in the wind, but for a moment the seventh seed seemed to have Federer right where he wanted him — lunging for the ball while displaced in the doubles alley.
On the full stretch, Federer flicked a forehand reflex return crosscourt that rattled Tipsarevic's racquet and ricocheted into the crowd for the lone break of the second set. That shot typified today's semifinal: even when Federer was out of position, he was still in command.
A sometime swirling wind heightened the degree of difficulty, but the third-seeded Swiss played with unwavering calm to storm into his fourth final in his last five tournaments with a 6-2, 6-3 semifinal sweep of Tipsarevic today. The two-time Madrid champion advanced to his 104th ATP final and will be playing for more than the stack of mini gold racquets decorated with diamonds that serve as the Ion Tiriac title trophy — should Federer beat Tomas Berdych in Sunday's final he will surpass archrival Rafael Nadal and regain the world No. 2 ranking for the first time since March, 2011.
The tattooed Tipsarevic made his mark on Madrid yesterday, fending off seven break points to surprise world No. 1 Novak Djokovic for the second time in six months. With his arm ink and tinted Oakley sunglasses, Tipsarevic could pass for surfer, but couldn't combat the serving tsunami Federer unleashed in the opening set. The 16-time Grand Slam champion isn't the fastest serve in the sport, but he's one of the most accurate. Federer won 16 of 18 points played on his serve in the first set, suffocating the Serbian in winning three of his four service games at love. Tipsarevic weathered an early break-point storm against Djokovic yesterday and saved two break points today before a series of sharp slices from Federer, made more devious by the windy conditions, coaxed a forehand into net to break for 3-1 after a near nine-minute game.
Mixing his spins and speeds brilliantly, Federer won 16 of the final 20 points to seize the opening set in 32 minutes on the strength of 13 winners compared to 6 for his opponent. Tipsarevic serves bigger than his 5-foot-11 size suggests and the Belgrade baseliner is entertaining to watch because of his willingness to stand toe-to-toe with bigger hitters and drive daggers down the line off both wings. But Federer's ability to time the ball on the rise and step into the court repeatedly rushed Tipsarevic and the Swiss varied the height and spin of his shots to deny his opponent any rhythm. Federer's rousing forehand return, which evoked gasps of surprise from some in the crowd, gave him a 3-1 lead. He saved the only break point he faced when Tipsarevic's backhand down the line strayed wide as Federer eventually held for 5-2, sealing the 66-minute win with a stinging body serve. Federer is 44-3 since falling to Djokovic in the 2011 U.S. Open semifinals.
Federer has beaten Berdych in 10 of their 14 meetings, but the big-hitting Czech has prevailed in three of their last five meetings. Continuing his quest to regain the No. 1 ranking, Federer can surpass Nadal for No. 2 and tie the Spaniard's record of 20 Masters crowns with a win in the final.