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Federer wins 26th Grand Slam match in a row

PARIS -- Top-ranked Roger Federer won his 26th Grand Slam match in a row, beating No. 12-seeded Mario Ancic 6-4, 6-3, 6-4.

Federer reached the semifinals in his eighth consecutive major event, two shy of Ivan Lendl's Open-era record. Federer needs two more match victories at the French Open to be the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win four majors in a row.

"To make it to the semis was my first objective in Paris," said Federer, anticipating a possible showdown Sunday against defending champion Rafael Nadal. "I'm much more relaxed now. There was enormous pressure at the start of the tournament, with everybody speaking about a final against Nadal, but first you have to win the matches before you get there."

Federer has won seven of the past 11 majors, including the last three. He's never won the French Open, though, and is trying to join Laver, Don Budge, Roy Emerson, Fred Perry and Andre Agassi as the only men to win a career Grand Slam.

Federer's 26th consecutive Grand Slam match win moves him past Jimmy Connors and Pete Sampras and alone into second place. Laver holds the record of 29.

Federer's opponent Friday will be No. 3-seeded David Nalbandian, who beat No. 6 Nikolay Davydenko 6-3, 6-3, 2-6, 6-4.

In Wednesday's quarterfinals, No. 2 Nadal faces Novak Djokovic of Serbia-Montenegro, while No. 4 Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia plays Julien Benneteau of France.

Federer and Nadal faced each other in both the Monte Carlo and Rome finals this year, with the Spaniard prevailing twice. Nadal has also looked invincible this week, extending his unbeaten run on clay to 57 matches.

"Yeah, I'd like to play him," Federer said. "Look, I think we all would love to see me playing Rafa in the finals."

The Swiss star has now won the last three meetings with Ancic after losing the encounter at Wimbledon in 2002, the last time Federer lost a match at the All England Club.

He appeared to be in a tough spot in the second set, trailing 3-1 against Ancic. But Ancic needed a massage behind his right shoulder during a changeover, and Federer won the last five games of that set. Ancic was visited again by the trainer and tournament doctor in the third set, and Federer pulled away.

"For 1½ sets, it was a very, very close match. Could have been ... the other way around, too," Federer said. "After that, I was pretty much in control.

"Talent with hard work: Without one or the other, you're not going to get anywhere these days, anymore," he said. "Thank God I realized in time what I needed to do. I got my game into a position where I can play aggressive, I can play defense and I can play counterattack, which is very good to know."

Nalbandian reached the French Open semifinals for the second time in three years.

In what was a baseline war of attrition, Nalbandian won five games in a row to take the first set in 34 minutes and controlled the second set as well.

However, Davydenko fought back in the third set, winning the first four games. In the fourth, Nalbandian broke for a 3-2 lead and held his serve the rest of the way.

Nalbandian lost in straight sets to eventual champion Gaston Gaudio in the semifinals here two years ago.

Nalbandian -- a semifinalist at all four majors and the 2002 Wimbledon runner-up -- won six of his first seven career matches against Federer, but the Swiss star is 5-1 against the Argentine since.

The 19-year-old Djokovic has upset No. 9 Fernando Gonzalez, No. 23 Tommy Haas and No. 25 Gael Monfils the past three rounds.

"I have to say for my next match, I don't have anything to lose," Djokovic said. "I know that I play against Nadal, [who] is No. 2 in the world, and we all know that he's the best on
this surface. He's really, I don't know, 55 in the row or what, wins and everything."

Ljubicic reached the round of eight with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory over Spaniard Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo on Monday.

Benneteau held a 5-1 lead over Alberto Martin when the Spaniard retired with a back injury. Benneteau never had reached even the fourth round at a major before this tournament.

Information from The Associated Press and SportsTicker was used in this report.