WIMBLEDON, England – Sisters Venus and Serena Williams will face each other in the women's Wimbledon final on Saturday, their first Grand Slam championship match in five years.
Between them, four-time champion Venus and two-time winner Serena have won six of the last eight Wimbledon titles.
It will be the third time Venus and Serena Williams will meet for the All England crown. Serena beat her older sister in the 2002 and 2003 championship matches and holds an overall 5-1 edge in Grand Slam finals. Venus won the title last year.
Also Saturday, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will meet in their third consecutive Wimbledon final after commanding semifinal victories Friday.
Federer outplayed Marat Safin 6-3, 7-6 (3), 6-4 with a nearly flawless performance, leaving him one win from his sixth consecutive Wimbledon title and 13th Grand Slam championship. It was his 65th straight win on grass and 40th in a row at the All England Club.
Nadal followed with a 6-1, 7-6 (3) 6-4 win over Rainer Schuettler, setting up a sixth Grand Slam final against Federer as he pursues his bid of becoming the first man to win the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year since Bjorn Borg in 1980.
Federer, who hasn't dropped a set all tournament, never lost serve against Safin and showed again why he is considered one of the greatest grass-court players of all time.
"It's great, a beautiful feeling, being able to get the opportunity to win the title again," Federer said after the clinical 1-hour, 42-minute victory. "It means so much to me."
Federer, who beat Safin for the ninth time in 11 matches, advanced to his 16th Grand Slam final.
"It's a huge thrill every time when I get to another Wimbledon final," he said. "It's a great occasion."
Nadal, the four-time French Open champion, has lost to Federer in the last two Wimbledon finals but pushed him to five sets last year and looks more dangerous than ever on grass.
"Right now, I know have on the other side of the net the best player of the world — Roger Federer — but I will try my best and we will see," said the Spaniard, who is on a 23-match winning streak. "I feel I have to play very well if I want to have chances to win. I know he's playing well, but I'm playing well, too."
Federer said he was eager to get over the 6-1, 6-3, 6-0 loss to Nadal in last month's French Open final — his worst defeat in a Grand Slam event.
"Paris was a disappointment," he said. "It's important to bounce back from that loss. I hardly remember anything of it. It went so quickly."
With Nadal looking more and more comfortable on grass, Federer might not be a heavy favorite this year.
"I don't think it matters really a lot if I'm the favorite or not," Federer said. "I'm on an incredible winning streak on grass. First, somebody has to be able to break that before we start talking differently."
Nadal has a 11-6 career edge over Federer, but the Swiss star leads 5-2 on surfaces other than clay.
"I enjoy the challenge," Federer said. "Rafa is a great competitor. He's got a winning record over me. Every time I play him, I want to beat him. He's now become so good on all the other surfaces that he's a real threat on anything."
Among the guests in the Royal Box on Friday was Swedish great Bjorn Borg, with whom Federer shares the modern era record of five consecutive Wimbledon titles. The only man to win six in a row was Willie Renshaw in the 1880s, and he had to win only one match to defend his titles.
"He was in the finals every time, so it was a little bit easier for him to win six in a row," Federer said. "A little different for us."
There had been pre-tournament suggestions that Federer was more vulnerable this year after failing to win a major title this season and losing in the lopsided final to Nadal in Paris.
"Don't write me off too quickly because this is my part of the season — Wimbledon, Olympic Games, U.S. Open," Federer said.
After Federer broke Safin for the second time, flashing a crosscourt backhand winner on match point, he skipped to the net and shared an embrace with the Russian, then pumped his fists and saluted the 15,000-capacity Centre Court crowd.
Nadal had little difficulty with the 32-year-old Schuettler, the lowest ranked player to reach the Wimbledon semifinals (No. 94) in seven years.
Nadal, who dictated the points with his punishing ground strokes, faced his only two break points of the match at 1-1 in the second set. He saved the first but Schuettler hit a crosscourt winner on the second. The German was serving for the set at 5-4, but Nadal broke back and then sailed through the tiebreaker,
Schuettler saved three match points while serving at love-40, 3-5 in the final set, but Nadal served it out at love in the next game.
"Today maybe it wasn't my best match here this year, but anyway I won in three sets," Nadal said.
Federer has matched his Wimbledon run of 2006 of getting to the final without losing a set.
"I haven't had many problems whatsoever throughout the championships," he said. "It's been a perfect way to the finals, but there's one more left. I need to win to get it. But so far it's been quite unbelievable actually."
On his favorite stage, on his favorite surface, Federer is a force. He was at his masterful best against Safin, a big-hitting former No. 1 and two-time Grand Slam champion playing in his first Wimbledon semifinal.
With his serve and forehand clicking, Federer smacked 14 aces and 38 winners to go with just 14 unforced errors.
"I was winning my service games pretty comfortably," he said. "I was playing well. I was feeling good out there on the court. It was perfect conditions to play."