Federer, Agassi take quarterfinal places

Roger Federer recovered from a wobble 24 hours earlier when he missed a chance for a straight-sets win, but made sure mistakes were not repeated on Tuesday as he reached the quarterfinals of the $6,5-million Miami Masters.

The Swiss top seed showed that he had recovered psychologically from a near-miss in the previous round against Mariano Zabaleta, as he dominated Mario Ancic 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 to advance at the event that he has never won.

The world number one was joined in the last eight by six-time winner Andre Agassi, the evergreen ninth seed, who slogged through a first set lasting 90 minutes to grind out a 7-6 (9-7), 6-2 fourth-round win over Roland Garros winner Gaston Gaudio.

“The first set was as hard a set as you’ll ever have, about an hour and a half almost,” said the 34-year-old Agassi, winner of his 15th match this season.

He stands 60-12 in Miami after 19 consecutive appearances in the event.

“A match like that can just turn into a first-class battle, all the way through from start to finish. If you take your right chances, you can maybe break a match like that open,” said Agassi.

“Today, that’s what happened. I played a few good points when I had to, and a couple of things went right for me.
I took advantage of it, and that makes life a lot easier.”

He is now 3-1 against the Argentine.

Spaniards had solid results on Tuesday, with young gun Rafael Nadal ousting hot-streak Croatian 13th seed Ivan Ljubicic 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-3. Unheralded David Ferrer won an all-Spanish battle as he beat Juan Carlos Ferrero 6-7 (7-9), 6-3, 7-5.

Slovak Dominik Hrbaty put out French teenaged hope Gael Monfils 6-3, 6-3. Swede Thomas Johansson crushed Jiri Novak 7-6 (7-2), 6-2.

In the women’s quarters, Russian second seed Maria Sharapova suddenly found herself struggling in what first looked like a rout, finally going the distance to overcome three-time grand-slam winner Justine Henin-Hardenne 6-1, 6-7 (6-8), 6-2.

The Belgian is back in action, seven months since her last match in the wake of an energy-draining virus and a January knee injury.

Henin-Hardenne, a former world number one, threw an almighty scare into teenaged Wimbledon winner Sharapova before going down.

Sharapova missed out on three match points and a chance to make it a easy day at the office; instead, she was forced to fight through into her 11th straight tournament semifinal.

“I felt in control of all points. I served well from the first ball. I was able to move her,” said the Russian, relieved to have escaped in two hours and 17 minutes.

“She’s been a top player. Those people can be dangerous because they want to give all they’ve got out there. I was expecting a really tough match. It came out to be really tough.”

Sharapova was playing on cruise control as she served for the contest, leading by a set and 5-4 with three match points in hand.

But the scenario suddenly turned sour for the 17-year-old—leading by two breaks—as she tried to close out in her first meeting with the Belgian.

It took a dominating third set to close it out for a winner who admitted she’s struggling with lower back pain.—Sapa-DPA

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