Federer leads top contenders in US Open

World number one Roger Federer answered the threat of big-serving United States giant John Isner to join top challengers Andy Roddick, Nikolay Davydenko and James Blake in the US Open fourth round on Saturday.

Federer, trying for a 12th grand-slam crown and fourth US Open title in a row, could not stop the early firepower of the 2,05m wild card, but came through with a 6-7 (4/7), 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 victory to advance.

“I knew for him to serve five sets this way was almost impossible,” Federer said after Isner hit half his 18 aces in the first set. “It was unbelievable how he was serving. You hope he’s not going to keep serving aces.”

Swiss precision and timing paid off as Federer went without an unforced error in the second or third set, broke to open the fourth set on a net-cord winner and downed the 199th-ranked tour newcomer after two hours and 15 minutes.

“You can’t really get ready for a match like this.
It’s all in the mind and all in the moment,” Federer said. “You better be good on the day. That’s what I was today.”

Federer, chasing the all-time slam record of 14 titles set by Pete Sampras, advanced to face 62nd-ranked Feliciano Lopez after the Spaniard outlasted US teen Donald Young 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/5), 7-5 in a battle of left-handers.

“I’m happy with my game. I’ve been serving well,” Federer said. “I am where I want to be. Absolutely.”

Russian fourth seed Davydenko ousted Spanish 28th seed Nicolas Almagro 7-5, 6-0, 7-5; US fifth seed Roddick downed Swede Thomas Johansson 6-3, 6-2, 6-0; and US sixth seed James Blake beat Austrian Stefan Koubek 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-1.

Roddick, who could play Federer in a quarterfinal that would be a rematch of last year’s US Open final, fired 19 aces without a double fault and blasted 41 winners with only 11 unforced errors to move on in 84 minutes.

“I felt good,” Roddick said. “I wanted to go out and hit the ball and be aggressive.”

Next for Roddick will be Czech ninth seed Tomas Berdych, who ousted Spain’s Fernando Verdasco 7-6 (7/2), 6-1, 7-6 (7/3). They have split two meetings, Roddick winning a Davis Cup tie this year but losing last year at Madrid.

“We both serve big and hit a pretty big ball from the baseline,” Roddick said. “It’s going to come down to a couple points here and there, whoever converts their chances on the other guy’s serve.”

South Korean Lee Hyung-Taik ousted Britain’s Andy Murray 6-3, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5 to equal his best grand-slam showing by reaching the round of 16. Lee also made the fourth round in his slam debut as a 2000 US Open qualifier.

Lee survived a late rally from the 19th-seeded Scotsman, breaking in the final game to book a berth against Davydenko, under a cloud for unusual online bets surrounding a match he lost last month by retirement.

“It will be a great challenge,” said Lee. “He is a great attacker. I will just try to relax and see what comes of it.”

Germany’s 10th-seeded Tommy Haas outlasted France’s Sebastien Grosjean 6-2, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-3 and will next face Blake, who has a 3-1 record against Haas.

Blake broke Koubek 10 times and edged him in a third-set tie-breaker for a victory that came after 1 in the morning.

“As soon as I got that third set, I thought I was going to build on that,” Blake said.—AFP

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