Federer starts in Madrid with win over Soderling

MADRID: Roger Federer imposed his game on Swede Robin Soderling for the ninth consecutive time, earning a 6-1, 7-5 victory into the third round of the Madrid Masters on Tuesday.

The Swiss second seed, who lost a Rome semi-final to Novak Djokovic and then hit the practice courts for private sessions last week, adapted well to the new clay of the Magic Box complex with its three covered courts.

"I got off to a good start and that took away some of the pressure," said the 13-time Grand Slam winner. "He can be impossible to break, and at altitude the court is so much faster.

"I played well and had to get used to the conditions. I'd never seen the centre court until I stepped out though I saw the Lenny Kravitz concert on it last week - but the clay was not there."

Fourth seed Andy Murray joined Federer in the third round as he turned in a solid effort to overcome Simone Bolelli of Italy, 7-6 (11/9), 6-4.

"I felt fairly good on the court, I hardly missed a ball the whole match. The I set was tough. I played some good points and overall was very happy with how I played," said the Scot who is trying to overall Federer on the second ranking.

Federer is on the hunt for his first title of the season and admits that winning Roland Garros for a first time is his current major goal.

The Madrid event was switched from hardcourt in autumn to spring clay but has drawn complaints from players not only for teething problems this week but also for the 500-metre altitude of the host city - a huge contrast to the sea-level of Paris.

Federer's victory in 69 minutes was his 15th at a tournament where he has played the quarter-finals or better in all five of his previous visits.

The Swiss went down a break in the second set after collecting the first in a mere 20 minutes.

But after falling to 2-4, the second seed broke straight back and secured his fourth break of the evening for 6-5.

Serving it out, Federer ended with his 10th and 11 aces to advance comfortably.

He faces the winner from American James Blake and Croatian Ivo Karlovic. Blake, the Estoril finalist, continued his new clay prowess over Victor Hanescu 6-2, 6-4 while Karlovic rode his big serve to a defeat of Julien Benneteau 3-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-4.

World number eight Fernando Verdasco buried more of the Spanish tennis past as he defeated former champion Juan Carlos Ferrero 6-3, 6-2 for a third-round place.

Ferrero, the 2003 champion in Madrid and who briefly held the number one ranking, is on the downward spiral at age 29, having claimed just two match win since lifting the Casablanca title clay last month.

Verdasco stands behind Rafael Nadal as the best in tennis-keen Iberia, with an exciting - if losing - Australian Open semi-final against the number one to show for it.

The 25-year-old from Madrid owns the Brisbane title from January as he continues a breakthrough season following his heroics in leading Spain to the Davis Cup last year in Nadal's injury absence.

Spain's 16th seed Tommy Robredo maintained home momentum, putting out last week's Estoril quarter-finalist Mardy Fish 3-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-2.

In the first round, Russian tenth seed Nikolay Davydenko continued his improvement after coming back from three months away with a heel injury, advancing over Viktor Troicki of Serbia 6-2, 6-2.

On the women's side, fourth seed Jelena Jankovic got off to a win, beating Daniela Hantuchova 7-5, 6-2 while Danish number nine Caroline Wozniacki crushed American Varvara Lepchenko 6-3, 6-1.

Unseeded Amelie Mauresmo overwhelmed China's 15th seed Jie Zheng 6-2, 7-5.