BRISBANE • Roger Federer reached his third successive Brisbane International final yesterday when he crushed Dominic Thiem in a lopsided semi-final.
The Swiss tennis maestro took just 60 minutes to down the eighth-seeded Austrian 6-1, 6-4 and said afterwards that it was the best he had played all week.
"I'm getting used to conditions, which is usually the case after a couple of matches," he said. "You understand the speeds more and you're more comfortable. Plus I'm definitely feeling a bit better now.
"I was very pleased with how I played. I think it was the best match of the week so far, or most consistent maybe."
The first set lasted just 22 minutes as a shell-shocked Thiem struggled to match the 17-time Grand Slam champion.
Thiem, 22, settled into the match in the second set and took the fight to his 34-year-old opponent, but a lapse in the seventh game saw him drop his serve and Federer easily held on to book a place in the final.
NOT LIKELY TO BE A STROLL
He's been looking good. Clearly, with a serve like that, things are always complicated.''
ROGER FEDERER, on facing Milos Raonic in the final.
Federer lost to Lleyton Hewitt in the 2014 title decider and beat Canadian Milos Raonic to win the title last year.
Today's final will be a rematch of last year's after the huge-serving Raonic edged out local hero Bernard Tomic in two close sets.
"I played some tough matches (against him) in the last 16 months or so," Federer said of Raonic. "I thought he played really well against me here last year.
"So he's been looking good. Clearly, with a serve like that, things are always complicated."
Raonic hit 13 aces on his way to a 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-5) win in 1hr 47min.
Tomic had his chances - including four break points in the fifth game of the first set. But Raonic served his way out of danger and neither man was troubled on his own serve thereafter.
With such a huge serve, Raonic was always favoured in the tie-breaks and he opened a 5-1 lead on both occasions. Tomic fought back to 5-5 twice but in the end, Raonic closed out the match with a lunging backhand volley.
Raonic pushed Federer in three close sets last year and, although he said he was playing better now than he was 12 months ago, he conceded facing the Swiss great was always difficult.
"He can do a lot of things differently," Raonic said. "You know what you want to do and what you should do (but) he can just make this part difficult for you.
"Each time, he can come out playing in different ways. But what I need to do is very clear. So that's what I'm going to strive for and try to play it on my terms as much as possible."
In the women's final, Victoria Azarenka displayed the kind of form that could lead her to a hat-trick of Australian Open titles later this month by brushing aside German fourth seed Angelique Kerber 6-3, 6-1.
The former world No. 1 has been plagued by injury over the last two years but she showed little sign of rust this week on her way to a second Brisbane crown.
The Belarusian, currently ranked world No. 22, dropped only 17 games over five matches during the tournament and claimed her first title since the Cincinnati Masters in August 2013.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS