Federer advances at Rome

Rome, May 9:

Roger Federer is prepared to leave no stone unturned in his latest campaign to topple the king of clay, Rafael Nadal.

Clay fazes Federer less than Nadal, the only player to beat him more than once since he became world No 1 in February 2004. Nadal has handed Federer his only two losses this year, and the Spanish presents the biggest obstacle to Federer at this month’s French Open, the only Grand Slam he hasn’t won. Nadal is the reigning French Open champion, as he is in Rome.

Chastened by an easy defeat to Nadal two weeks ago in the Monte Carlo final, Federer arrived early for this week’s Rome Masters, and met a week earlier than planned with part-time coach Tony Roche.

Their work received encouragement on Monday when Federer was aggressive in dispatching Argentina’s Juan Ignacio Chela 6-2, 6-1.

With all of the world’s top 10 entered, three didn’t last the first day at the Foro Italico; No 4 Ivan Ljubicic was upset by Slovakia’s Dominik Hrbaty 5-7, 7-6 (4), 6-4, No 7 James Blake was beaten 6-4, 7-6 (3) by France’s Florent Serra, and No 10 Tommy Robredo fell to Britain’s Greg Rusedski 5-7, 6-3, 6-4. Also, David Ferrer was ousted by Argentina’s Jose Acasuso 7-5, 6-0 for the fourth time in five matchups.

Other winners included Fernando Gonzalez of Chile, Robby Ginepri of the United States, Gael Monfils and Fabrice Santoro of France, Mario Ancic of Croatia, and Mikhail Youzhny of Russia.

Federer missed the tournament last year because of a foot injury. He’ll play Italy’s Potito Starace next, with 14th-seeded Radek Stepanek a possibility in the third round. Federer said he and Roche had not had a thorough discussion yet of his latest loss to Nadal. Federer realizes he has to overcome Nadal and his tricky lefty spins if he wants to win all four Grand Slams. “Thank God I have a lefty coach, so at least I get to see a lefty sort of spin sometimes,” Federer said of Roche.