Wed, May 10, 2006 - Page 20 News List

Federer driven to stop top 'lefty'

ROME MASTERSAfter having lost four of their five encounters, the Swiss No. 1 has been practicing against his left-handed coach before taking on Spain's Rafael Nadal again

AFP AND AP , ROME

Switzerland's Roger Federer returns the ball to Argentina's Juan Ignacio Chela during the first round of the Rome Masters tennis tournament in Rome on Monday. Federer won 6-2, 6-1.

PHOTO: AP

Roger Federer has spent hours practicing with left-handed coach Tony Roche in an attempt to end his poor run against the world's best "lefty," Rafael Nadal.

Federer has won just one of their five meetings and the Swiss world No. 1 is determined to stop the rot.

"Thank God I have a `lefty' coach," said the top seed after his comfortable 6-2, 6-1 first round victory over Juan Ignacio Chela at the Rome Masters on Monday.

"At least I get to see a `lefty' sort of spin. I spend a lot of hours with him on the court and I'm going to spend 10 weeks on the road with him right now. So I'll get to see a lot of `lefty' spin and it changes a lot in the game," Federer said.

Federer, who was absent here last year due to a foot injury, lost to Nadal in the Monte Carlo final last month.

But his most painful defeat to the Spaniard was in the semi-finals of the French Open last year, which Nadal won.

Federer, still missing the Roland Garros title from his Grand Slam collection, next faces Italian Potito Starace, who beat Dmitry Tursunov of Russia in straight sets.

The biggest casualties on day one at the Foro Italico were Croatian number three seed Ivan Ljubicic and US No. 7 seed James Blake.

Ljubicic was beaten by Slovakian Dominik Hrbaty, while Blake was dumped out by Frenchman Florent Serra. Hrbaty, who defeated Ljubicic in five sets in their last meeting in the Davis Cup final in December, next faces Frenchman Fabrice Santoro, who fought back from a set down to beat Argentinian Juan Monaco. Serra's reward is a second round meeting with Croatia's Mario Ancic.

Ljubicic tried to look on the positive side after his early exit.

"It's always better if you win, but this will give me a chance to train well for the tournaments ahead, for Hamburg and for the Team Cup. Then there is the French Open, so perhaps I can make good use of this time off," he said.

Argentinian Jose Acasuso defeated 11th seed David Ferrer 7-5, 6-0 for his fourth win in five meetings with the Spaniard.

Chilean 10th seed Fernando Gonzalez beat Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka 6-4, 6-4 to set up a second round clash with Russian Mikhail Youzhny.

Youzhny disappointed the home crowd by beating Italy's Andreas Seppi 6-2, 7-6 (9/7).

Nadal, who will equal Guillermo Vilas's record of 53 consecutive claycourt wins if he successfully defends his title here, was to begin his campaign against fellow Spaniard and good friend Carlos Moya yesterday. Nadal chalked up his 47th straight victory on his preferred surface when he defeated Tommy Robredo in the final of the Barcelona Open last month.

Virginie Razzano of France upset 14th-seeded Ai Sugiyami of Japan 6-1, 4-6, 6-2 on Monday in the first round of the German Open.

Top-ranked Amelie Mauresmo and Justine Henin-Hardenne will first see action today. They have won the last five German Opens between them.

Also on Monday, Anne Kremer beat Ivana Lisjak, 6-0, 7-6 (4); 15th-seeded Maria Kirilenko topped Roberta Vinci 6-4, 6-3; Anna Chakvetadze downed Iveta Benesova 6-1, 6-3; and Anna Smashnova defeated Ekaterina Bychkova 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 at the clay-court tuneup for the French Open.

Mauresmo, Henin-Hardenne and fourth-ranked Nadia Petrova are among the Roland Garros favorites, starting May 29.

Henin-Hardenne won the German and French Opens in 2003 and last year. Her other Berlin title was in 2002. Martina Hingis, seeking her first title since her January comeback, is also in the Berlin field.

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