Thu, May 08, 2008 - Page 20 News List

Federer back on track as nemesis Canas falls short

AP , ROME

Switzerland's Roger Federer prepares to return a ball to Argentina's Guillermo Canas during their men's second-round match at the Rome Masters tennis tournament on Tuesday.

PHOTO: AP

Roger Federer is back on track.

The top-ranked player got by one of his most challenging opponents on Tuesday, beating Guillermo Canas 6-3, 6-3 in the second round of the Rome Masters.

Perhaps more importantly, Federer said he has finally caught up on the court time he lost after being diagnosed with mononucleosis earlier this year and piling up a string of losses.

“I think I was lacking matches at one stage, when I lost in the first round of Dubai. Now, I’m again back in my stride and feel like I’m playing well and nothing ever happened,” Federer said. “It was a tough couple of months early on.”

Also on Tuesday, Andy Roddick defeated Mardy Fish 6-1, 6-4 in an all-American matchup to get his clay-court season off to a solid start.

Roddick’s only other match on clay this year was a Davis Cup win over Austria’s Jurgen Melzer in February.

“It’s OK,” Roddick said of his feeling on clay. “I only have one match to judge it on and that’s this one, so I guess it’s good.”

In first-round play, 2001 champion Juan Carlos Ferrero rallied past Nicolas Kiefer 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-4 to set up a meeting with three-time defending champion Rafael Nadal.

Also, 14th-seeded Tommy Robredo defeated Juan Ignacio Chela 6-4, 6-1, Jose Acasuso eliminated Dmitry Tursunov 6-4, 6-2, and Croatian wild card Mario Ancic dispatched Feliciano Lopez 6-4, 6-4.

Three seeds were upset in the first round on Tuesday. No. 11 Carlos Moya was eliminated by fellow Spanaird Fernando Verdasco, 6-3, 6-4; Frenchman Gilles Simon beat his 10th-seeded compatriot Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (6); and Croatia’s Ivo Karlovic defeated 15th-seeded Paul-Henri Mathieu 7-6 (4), 6-2.

Besides the loss to Andy Murray in Dubai, Federer was also beaten by Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open semi-finals, then fell to Fish and Andy Roddick in his last two tournaments before the clay-court season.

Federer opened his clay campaign by entering the Estoril Open in Portugal for the first time in his career. He won the tournament for his first victory this year, the longest he’s waited for a victory in nine years.

A week later, Federer reached the final of the Monte Carlo Masters, losing in straight sets to Nadal after surrendering a 4-0 lead in the second set.

“I won in Estoril and beat [David] Nalbandian, Djokovic and [Gael] Monfils in Monte Carlo, and played a good final against Nadal, so I’m on a good run on clay,” Federer said.

Canas defeated Federer twice early last year and was one of the few players with a winning record against the Swiss player. The pair are now tied 3-3 in career meetings.

“Guillermo in the [second] round was tough. We’ve had some tough ones in the past, so I knew it was going to be difficult,” Federer said.

All five of Federer’s previous meetings with Canas had came on hard courts. This tournament is a key clay-court tuneup for the French Open, which begins on May 25.

“I guess he grew up on clay like I did,” Federer said. “Who knows? Different times, different results. This was a good match to start off the Rome campaign.”

Canas relied on his speed to simply keep the ball in play and force Federer into mistakes. Federer committed 27 unforced errors to 13 for Canas, but led 34-10 in winners.

Federer also had eight aces, and had several drop-shot winners.

Federer began working with clay-court guru Jose Higueras in Estoril, and Switzerland’s Davis Cup captain, Severin Luthi, is offering him some help this week.

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