Melbourne: If he could pick any player from any era to test himself against, Roger Federer would like a shot at Rod Laver or Bjorn Borg.
Laver, the last man to win all four majors in one season, was in the stadium, that carries his name, on Thursday to witness Federer dismantle Andy Roddick in the Australian Open semi-finals. After what he saw, Laver would just as soon stick to meeting Federer in the locker room, after the matches.
Federer likes to put on a show when Laver is at Rod Laver Arena, and called his 6-4, 6-0, 6-2 victory over Roddick his best match in Melbourne.
"I had one of these days when everything worked. I was unbeatable. I was playing out of my mind. I am shocked myself," the Swiss star said.
The win put him in his seventh consecutive Grand Slam final, tying a record set by Jack Crawford in 1934, and left him only one victory from a 10th Grand Slam title.
With seemingly few challengers among his contemporaries, Federer is often asked about facing one of the greats from another time - Laver and Borg come to his mind.
Both won 11 majors. Borg from 16 finals spanning 1974 to 1981, and Laver in a five-season run wedged around his absence from the Grand Slam tournaments from 1963-67.
By Sunday, Federer is likely to be only one major title behind, although Laver expects him to go a lot further and break Pete Sampras' record of 14 Grand Slam titles.
"I think the art of Roger is probably the best player I've ever seen . The way he's compiling the Grand Slam titles, I think he's got a great chance of being the best ever," Laver said.
The 68-year-old Laver made a rare return to Melbourne from California to marvel Federer again.
"Roger's got too many shots, too much talent in one body. It's hardly fair that one person can do all this - his backhands, his forehands, volleys, serving, his court position - the way he moves around the court, you feel like he's barely touching the ground. That's the sign of a great champion," Laver said.
Roddick, who beat Federer in an exhibition tournament less than two weeks ago and had match points against him at the Masters Cup last November, rated the prospect of an upset as 'slim'.
Federer reached the finals of all four majors last year, deprived of a Grand Slam in a four-set loss to Rafael Nadal at the French Open. He has led the rankings since February 2004.
Laver, who had Grand Slam seasons in 1962 and 1969, thinks Federer is setting himself up for a run at a Grand Slam season and has all the shots he needs to shatter the tennis records.
Laver went into the locker room to congratulate Federer and renew a friendship that started last year. Asked of Laver's assessment, Federer replied: "Oh, he said it was excellent, which is nice to hear."
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