Federer, Djokovic register hard-fought wins

Rome, May 9:

Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic remained on track for a dream semi-final match-up with hard-fought victories at the Rome Masters on Thursday.

World number one Federer defeated giant Croatian Ivo Karlovic 7-6 (7/4), 6-3 in his third round clash while Djokovic overcame Russian Igor Andreev 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 to reach the quarter-finals.

Federer managed to fashion six break points against the six foot 10 inch Karlovic in the first set but each one was saved by booming serves. Yet in the first set tie-break the Federer made the breakthrough at 5-4 with a brilliant forehand return pass before a netted backhand from Karlovic handed him the set. In the second set, Karlovic’s serve was not so potent and Federer

twice earned 40-0 leads to break twice. Federer faces Czech Radek Stepanek next after he ousted Peruvian qualifier Luis Horna in three sets 6-4, 1-6, 6-3.

Australian Open champion Djokovic survived a marathon battle against Andreev, winning 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 in 2hr 42min and the Serbian third seed will now face Spaniard Nicolas Almagro. Almagro received a bye after Chilean 12th seed Fernando Gonzalez pulled out with a leg injury.

It was a good day for American pair James Blake and Andy Roddick who both progressed to the quarter-finals and could yet meet in the semis. Blake had a tough start against young Spaniard Fernando Verdasco, dropping the first set 7-5 but the eighth seed rallied and took the next by the same score before ropping away with the decider 6-2.

Roddick broke the hearts of home fans as he ousted the last remaining Italian from the draw. Simone Bolelli started well and broke early in the match but the sixth seed broke back soon afterwards and the first set went to a tie-break with a Bolelli error handing Roddick the set 7-5. The second was not so close as Roddick’s greater experience showed and he took it 6-3.