Federer, Raonic set to meet in Brisbane International final

Roger Federer defeated Grigor Dimitrov on Saturday to advance to play Milos Raonic in the final of the Brisbane International.  

Tertius Pickard/AP

BRISBANE, Australia — Roger Federer has a chance to go into the Australian Open with 1,000 career match wins to his credit after beating fourth-seeded Grigor Dimitrov 6-2, 6-2 on Saturday to reach the final of the Brisbane International.

The 17-time Grand Slam champion came into the 2015 season with 996 wins and has had three more on the way to Sunday’s final, where he’ll meet third-seeded Milos Raonic. He has a 7-1 win-loss record against the 24-year-old Canadian, who served 34 aces to grind out a 6-7 (4), 7-6 (4), 7-6 (4) win over second-seeded Kei Nishikori in the other semifinal.

"It’s a goal for the season, so I still have time to get to a thousand," Federer said, smiling. "I mean, it’s a really big number, no doubt about it. Love to get it tomorrow, especially in the finals in an ATP event where most of my wins have come.

"If not tomorrow, I hope it happens at the Australian Open. It would definitely be an incredible milestone to reach."

Only Jimmy Connors and Ivan Lendl have won more than 1,000 matches.

"They were very consistent for a long time, very match tough, and definitely players and athletes you could look up to because their longevity was incredible," the 33-year-old Federer said. "It would mean a lot to get to a thousand, but they’re still ahead of me."

Maria Sharapova was scheduled to play Ana Ivanovic in the Saturday night women’s final.

The third-seeded Raonic appeared to grow in confidence as the match progressed against U.S. Open finalist Nishikori, earning three match points with an ace in the third tiebreaker and then clinching it after 2 1/2 hours with a stunning forehand service return.

Raonic said he’ll be relying again on his serve, hoping to emulate the form that earned a win over Federer in Paris last year.

"That’s always been a key. Last few matches I started poorly. I would get broken right in my first service game, which is not the way to really go about things, especially against a top player and especially against Roger," he said. "So I’ve got to keep that pressure on him and then sort of step up when I can create my opportunities."

Raonic’s win over U.S. Open finalist Nishikori was only his second in six head-to-heads between the pair.

"I felt I served really well. That’s held me around, especially in the beginning, because I felt he was getting more and more on top of me at the beginning from the baseline," Raonic said. "That sort of kept me in it and sort of gave me a chance."

Neither player dropped serve in the match, meaning Nishikori exited the tournament without being broken in a service game.

Eventually, though, the quick points Raonic was able to pick up on his booming serve made the difference.

Each set turned on one error at the same stage of the tiebreakers.

Nishikori forced an error with a powerful service return in the first for a 5-4 lead. He served a double-fault in the second to give Raonic the 5-4 advantage with two serves to close.

The last tiebreaker was on serve until Nishikori missed a forehand with the court wide open, and Raonic took over from there.

Venus Williams won her first title of the year when she recovered from a set and a break down for a 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 win over top-seeded Carolina Wozniacki in the final of the ASB Classic at Auckland, New Zealand.

Her sister, Serena Williams, was aiming for a third Hopman Cup title when she partnered John Isner in the U.S. team against Poland in the final later Saturday in Perth, Australia.