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Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Roger Federer to meet in Rogers Cup men's final

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TORONTO - Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has taken down three top-10 players this week on his way to the Rogers Cup final.

It won't get any easier in the championship match.

The Frenchman will take on Roger Federer after both players posted straight-set semifinal victories on Saturday at Rexall Centre. Tsonga beat Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria 6-4, 6-3 in the afternoon while Federer topped Spain's Feliciano Lopez 6-3, 6-4 in the evening.

Tsonga, who is 4-11 lifetime against Federer, said after his win that he would prefer to play the Swiss star for the title.

"When you play against Roger, it's always special," Tsonga said. "First, because you play in a big area, in a big stadium anyway. And every time the crowd is for him, so it's quite a good sensation.

"It's quite a good feeling when you win against 10,000 people," he added with a smile.

It's always a tall order to knock off the second-seeded Federer, but Tsonga is one of a handful of players to have done it a few times. He has beaten him in Canada too — with wins at Montreal in 2009 and 2011.

Federer has been challenged at times this week and was pushed in a couple of three-set matches ahead of the semifinal. However, he was in top form against Lopez.

"I think I served well, I was aggressive and I was able to really play the way I wanted to play tonight," Federer said. "I'm very happy."

The 13th-seeded Tsonga, meanwhile, is also brimming with confidence. He dispatched top-seeded Novak Djokovic in the third round, eighth-seeded Andy Murray in the quarter-finals and then the seventh-seeded Dimitrov.

"This week I'm more consistent and it's good because it (helped) me beat three guys in the top 10," Tsonga said. "I didn't do that (for a) couple of years now and it gives me hope for the rest of the year."

It will be a clash of styles when the two veterans meet on the stadium showcourt at the US$3.78-million Masters 1000 Series event.

Tsonga, 29, plays with an edge, is as demonstrative as they come and his emotions always on full display. The elegant Federer, 33, plays with a steadiness and poise that few can match.

"I just think he can overpower guys," Federer said of Tsonga. "Serve up a storm and then play really aggressive with his forehand and also be solid on his backhand.

"You think you're in a safe place sometimes in the rally and he takes one step and just hits it and the point is over."

On Saturday, Tsonga improved to 4-0 in head-to-head matchups against Dimitrov while Federer remained perfect against Lopez at 11-0.

Tsonga needed a few games to get his legs going but his powerful serve helped him stay on serve against the young Bulgarian, who is enjoying a breakout season. Tsonga picked up the lone break of the set by taking advantage of his raw power from the backcourt.

Heavy topspin strokes forced Dimitrov from side to side and he came up short on two straight returns. Tsonga, buoyed by the enthusiastic near-capacity crowd, skipped and pumped his fist when he converted the break point for a 5-4 lead.

He fought off four break point opportunities in the next game to take the opening set.

"You have your chances," Dimitrov said. "Today things were just not leaning on my side."

Perhaps a little tired after his three-hour quarter-final a day earlier, Dimitrov appeared a tad sluggish in the second set and was unable to dictate the play.

Tsonga won on his second match point when Dimitrov's lob bounced just long. The Frenchman extended his arms in the air after the victory and shadow-boxed on the court in celebration.

In the other semifinal, Federer was in control from the start on a clear, comfortable evening. He took the opening game at love and dropped only five points on his serve in the first set.

Lopez turned in a game effort against the two-time Rogers Cup champ but couldn't match Federer's consistency. The Swiss star was his usual smooth self and never appeared threatened.

Sunday's match will be Tsonga's second final appearance of the season. He lost to Latvia's Ernests Gulbis in Marseille last February.

Federer will be appearing in his seventh final this year. He has a 2-4 record with victories at Dubai and Halle.

Tsonga has won 10 career titles and will be looking for his first Rogers Cup crown.

It will be his first appearance in a Masters 1000 final since he lost to Federer three years ago at the BNP Paribas Masters. Tsonga's only Masters 1000 title came in Paris back in 2008.

Federer, meanwhile, has won 79 career titles and is a 17-time Grand Slam champion.

In men's doubles semifinal play, third-seeded Daniel Nestor of Toronto and Nenad Zimonjic of Serbia dropped a 6-4, 7-6 (8) decision to No. 2 Alexander Peya of Austria and Bruno Soares of Brazil.

Earlier, the fourth-seeded duo of Brazil's Marcelo Melo and Croatia's Ivan Dodig defeated Santiago Gonzalez of Mexico and Croatia's Marin Cilic 6-3, 6-2.

———

Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.

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