Federer, Hewitt set up classic showdown in Brisbane final

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BRISBANE, Australia (AP)

Roger Federer and Lleyton Hewitt earned three-set victories on Saturday to set up a meeting in the Brisbane International final, renewing a rivalry that stretches back to the last millennium.


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Federer beat No. 8-seeded Jeremy Chardy 6-3, 6-7 (3), 6-3 in a semifinal featuring just two service breaks, immediately after Hewitt's 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 win over second-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan.

The pair of 32-year-old former No. 1s have met 26 times dating back to Hewitt's win at Lyon in 1999. Federer leads their head-to-head record 18-8, including 16 wins in their last 17 matches, and has 17 Grand Slam titles to Hewitt's two.

Hewitt is coming back from long-term foot and toe injuries, is ranked in the 60s and is into his first final on home soil since losing the Australian Open decider to Marat Safin in 2005 - that last time he went beyond the semifinals at a major.

''We go back 17 years - our coaches back in the day were best friends,'' Federer said. ''It's amazing we have a chance to play in Australia again - first time in a final here.''

Federer said he struggled against Hewitt earlier in his career before getting on top in the rivalry, and now they're occasional practice partners and are both dads.

The last time they met in a final, Hewitt broke Federer's streak of 15 wins in head-to-heads with a comeback victory in three sets at Halle in 2010. That was the last of Hewitt's 28 career titles. Federer has won 77 titles, the last being at Halle last year.

''You want to play against the best players, and obviously Roger and I have a good history and a lot of tough matches in the past in slams and Davis Cups and everything,'' Hewitt said. ''We're the same age. We grew up together. He's a great guy. I have the upmost respect for him, not only as a player but for what he does off the court as well.''

Hewitt handled the heat better than his Japanese opponent as the temperatures topped 104 F (40 C), and his grinding style paid dividends as the match extended to 2 1/2 hours.

''I love a battle,'' said Hewitt, who won the U.S. Open in 2001 and Wimbledon in 2002 and spent 80 weeks at No. 1 before Federer assumed the top ranking and held onto it for 4 1/2 years. ''Mentally this is a major win to have come back and gone the distance.''

Defending champion Serena Williams was set to face second-ranked Victoria Azarenka for the women's title at Brisbane on Saturday night.

The Williams sisters were hoping to both win a WTA Tour event in the same week for the first time in 15 years, but Ana Ivanovic prevented that when she beat Venus Williams 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 in the final of the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand.

Ivanovic ended a drought with the win, claiming her 12th career singles title and her first since Bali in 2011.

Williams was the crowd's sentimental favorite after fighting her way to the final of her first tournament since September. After a long struggle with injury and illness, her form in Auckland supported her claim before the tournament that she is fitter and healthier than she has been in years.

She saved a match point in the second set and pressed Ivanovic strongly after dropping her serve in the opening game of the third.

Ivanovic showed signs of nerves when she failed to serve out the match in the second set. She fell behind 15-40 in the last game in the decider before recovering to win the match on her second championship point.

Williams served five aces and hit 27 forehand winners and 16 winners at the net. However, she also had 64 unforced errors - including eight double faults - to Ivanovic's 47. She was 8-1 in matches against Ivanovic before Saturday's final.

''We've played a lot of great matches and this is another one,'' Williams said. ''I just kept fighting despite the odds. She was playing so well.''

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