Federer battles way into Hamburg semis


Roger Federer needed just under 2 hours to see off Germany’s Florian Mayer in three sets on Friday to reach the semifinals of the German Tennis Championships.

The Swiss top seed, playing his first tournament since his shock second-round exit at Wimbledon, dug deep to claim the third set for a 7-6 (7-4), 3-6, 7-5 quarterfinal victory.

Mayer, 45th in the world compared to Federer’s fifth ranking, fired six aces, three times more than his opponent, but Federer was strong where it counted, saving three of the five break points he faced in the third set.

“It was extremely difficult,” said Federer.

“I started really well. I thought we were both hitting the ball well in the first set and not giving each other that many chances. It went down to the wire.

“I’m happy I played a good tiebreak. I should have been up early with a break in the second set; he got me there. It was a bit of a roller coaster until the very end of the match. Just had to tough it out.

“The conditions were cold and heavy, the clay was heavy. So, it was different than we had expected at the beginning of the day when we thought we would play at 5:15 pm. I have to say that I really enjoyed the match. It was a tough match and Florian fought hard.”

Federer has a 32-4 record in Hamburg, where he won the title in 2002, 2004-05 and 2007, then finished runnerup in 2008 to Rafael Nadal.

The 17-time Grand Slam champion will now face Argentinian qualifier Federico Delbonis in Saturday’s semifinals.

Second seed Tommy Haas made a quarterfinal exit when he lost in straight sets, 6-2, 6-4, to Italian 12th-seed Fabio Fognini, who claimed his first ATP Tour win at Stuttgart last week.

Fognini, who had also beaten Haas in the last eight at Stuttgart, will play third-seed Spaniard Nicolas Almagro, who beat fifth-seed Juan Monaco of Argentina 4-6, 6-0, 6-3 in just under 2 hours.

Serena strolls into semis


World No. 1 Serena Williams extended her unbeaten run on clay this season to 26 matches as she dismantled Spaniard Lourdes Dominguez 6-1, 6-1 and eased into the semifinals of the Swedish Open on Friday.

The 16-time Grand Slam winner will now play Czech Republic third seed Klara Zakopalova, who had little trouble eliminating Dutch hope Richel Hogenkamp 6-2, 6-3.

Radwanska defends self


Polish star Agnieszka Radwanska on Friday defended her controversial nude photo shoot which saw her dropped by a Catholic youth movement, claiming the pictures were in good taste.

Radwanska, 24, who makes no secret of her strong Catholic faith, was photographed in the “Body Issue” of ESPN Magazine in profile without clothing, sitting in a lawn chair by a pool filled with tennis balls.

While not explicit, the photo proved too much for a Catholic group known as Krucjata Mlodych (Youth Crusade), which runs a campaign dubbed “I’m not ashamed of Jesus”.

The young Catholics, who claim more than a million followers, dropped Radwanska last week for what they said was “immoral behavior” in the ESPN spread, which can be seen at: espn.go.com/espn/bodyissue.

But world No. 4 Radwanska insisted the pictures were a celebration of the “beauty of the bodies of the best athletes in the world”.

“My tennis colleagues Serena Williams, Daniela Hantuchova and Vera Zvonareva have all participated in the past,” Radwanska wrote on a statement published on her Facebook page.

“The pictures are certainly not meant to cause offense and to brand them as immoral clearly does not take into account the context of the magazine.

“Moreover, they do not contain any explicit imagery whatsoever. I train extremely hard to keep my body in shape and that’s what the article and the magazine is all about.”