Federer finds his feet as Haas halts red-hot Roddick

World number one Roger Federer, in search of his first title of 2008, took no chances on Sunday as he moved smoothly into the third round of the Indian Wells Masters Series.

The top-seeded Swiss, who enjoyed a first-round bye, defeated Spain’s Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-3, 6-2 in his first ATP outing since a first-round ouster at Dubai last week.

Federer, who has put his quiet start in 2008 down at least in part to a bout of mononucleosis, is hoping a return to the California desert, where he won the title three years in a row from 2004 to 2006, will be the tonic he needs.

“I haven’t played much, this is the difficulty,” he said. “Every first round you play at a big tournament is always a bit of pressure if you’re number one seed. I wasn’t nervous or anything ...
you just have a tendency to be a bit more unsure because you don’t know the conditions that well yet.”

Unsure or not, Federer was never in trouble, and he said he could probably have made the win more impressive if he hadn’t stuck to a conservative game plan.

“I wouldn’t play too risky,” said Federer, who was shocked in his opening match here last year by Argentina’s Guillermo Canas. “I could have taken more chances today and could have won even more easily, but the way it went I was very happy.”

While Federer began to gather steam, red-hot Andy Roddick was cooled off by Germany’s Tommy Haas.

Haas (29) used a break in each set to defeat sixth-seeded Roddick 6-4, 6-4, displaying an array of crisp passing shots and asserting himself when it mattered most.

“Today was one of the matches where I won the majority of the important points,” Haas said. “When I broke him, I really played some great points, backhand and forehand passing shots and forehand lobs. That was really the only difference today.”

Roddick had come into the tournament on a high, with titles in San Jose and last week in Dubai already to his credit this year.

But after enjoying a first-round bye he fell at the first hurdle of this $5,7-million tournament, which features both the men’s Masters Series event and a WTA tier one tournament.

The American insisted that the defeat, his seventh against Haas in 10 career meetings, was just a bump in the road, not a major obstacle.

“I’ve been playing very, very well for the last month, so I’m not going to freak out over this loss and forget everything I’ve been able to work towards,” Roddick said.

Haas, meanwhile, arrived at the first Masters Series of the season hoping to jump start his 2008 campaign.

After undergoing shoulder surgery in November, Haas didn’t play his first tournament of the year until February, falling from 11th to 27th in the rankings.

His best previous results this season were second-round appearances in San Jose and Memphis.

Haas broke Roddick in the ninth game of the opening set and calmly served it out.

He earned the lone break of the second set in the seventh game, then held off a determined Roddick in the next game to preserve his advantage.

Serving for the match, Haas raced to a 40-0 lead, but badly missed a forehand volley then sent a crosscourt forehand wide on his first two match points. Haas finally claimed the match with a forehand that clipped the net and dropped out of Roddick’s reach.

Fourth-seeded Russian Nikolay Davydenko advanced, defeating Untied States wild card John Isner 6-2, 7-6 (7/3). Seventh-seeded Argentinian David Nalbandian also advanced, defeating Latvia’s Ernests Gulbis 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (7/4), and 11th-seeded Scot Andy Murray rallied to beat Austrian Jurgen Melzer 3-6, 6-3, 6-3.

In women’s play, Australian Open champion Maria Sharapova, the fourth seed, moved into the fourth round with a 7-5, 6-3 victory over Greece’s Eleni Daniilidou.

Sharapova next faces Ukrainian Alona Bondarenko, who ousted former world number one Amelie Mauresmo 6-1, 6-2.

Second-seeded Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova struggled through with a 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 victory over Slovakian Dominika Cibulkova, booking a clash with Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki, a 6-0, 6-2 winner over Japan’s Aiko Nakamura.

American Ashley Harkleroad, ranked 73rd in the world, upset eighth-seeded Russian Dinara Safina 7-5, 6-2, and India’s Sania Mirza dismissed ninth-seeded Shahar Peer of Israel 6-7 (7/9), 7-5, 6-3.

Mirza will play defending champion Daniela Hantuchova, the fifth seed, who beat China’s Zheng Jie 6-4, 6-2. - AFP

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