The God's Given Lionel Messi - messilegend

Friday, May 1, 2009

Nadal Is In Top Form In Rome

"I think it was one of my best matches on clay this year," Nadal said.

Nadal, Federer, Djokovic advance in Rome
ROME (AP) - Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic advanced to the Rome Masters quarterfinals with routine straight-sets wins on Thursday.

Nadal extended his clay-court winning streak to 27 matches _ stretching back to an opening-round loss to Juan Carlos Ferrero here last year - with a 6-1, 6-0 victory over Robin Soderling of Sweden.

Federer avenged last year's quarterfinal loss to Radek Stepanek by beating the 16th-seeded Czech 6-4, 6-1. Djokovic had a surprisingly easy time with 13th-seeded Tommy Robredo, winning 6-1, 6-1.

Also advancing were No. 5 Juan Martin del Potro, No. 8 Fernando Verdasco, No. 12 Fernando Gonzalez, and two qualifiers - Juan Monaco of Argentina and Mischa Zverev of Germany.

Nadal was so dominant against Soderling that the 27th-ranked Swede became frustrated enough to call the ATP supervisor, Mark Darby, onto the court early in the second set over a disputed call. Computer replays showed Soderling's shot was clearly out.

"I think it was one of my best matches on clay this year," Nadal said.

Nadal has won clay-court titles in Monte Carlo and Barcelona in the past two weeks and is attempting to become the first player in the Open era to win this tournament four times.

Before his perfect Rome record was ruined by Ferrero last year, Nadal won three consecutive titles at Foro Italico from 2005-07.

Thomas Muster also won three Rome titles in 1990, '95 and '96.

Nadal will next face Verdasco, who eliminated Richard Gasquet of France 7-5, 6-4.

Gasquet was forced to play two matches on Wednesday due to rain earlier in the week. Federer said conditions were a touch slower than when he played Stepanek last year, and he could read his opponent's serve better.

"I told myself I have to be very disciplined in my playing today, the way I play my tactical game against him and just the way I have to focus," Federer said. "Last year I got a little bit unsure about my own game and he played well, and then I was not 100 percent sure of what I wanted to do."

Federer jumped out to a 3-0 lead before being broken when he served for the first set at 5-3. But the newlywed Swiss broke right back when he forced Stepanek to hit a low volley that landed in the net.

Federer cruised in the second set, serving his fifth ace on his first match point. But Federer managed to get only 43 percent of his first serves in, and he will likely have to improve to avoid extending his title drought to eight tournaments.

"I didn't care how high my first serve percentage was, as long as I was winning," Federer said. "But it's definitely something I have to do better in the next match."
Federer will next face the 76th-ranked Zverev, who upset eighth-seeded Gilles Simon 6-4, 6-1.
Djokovic needs to defend his title at this French Open warmup to prevent Andy Murray from taking the No. 3 ranking from him, even though Murray was eliminated by Monaco on Wednesday.

Djokovic began working with Muster's old trainer, Gebhard Phil-Gritsch, last week, and kept his level high from start to finish against Robredo, who has won two clay titles this year.

"I felt quite good," Djokovic said. "I had a day off yesterday, which helped me to recover from the late night second round and just get some more practice."
Djokovic has won his last five matches against Robredo, who leads the ATP Tour with 19 wins on
clay this year.

"It was quite strange because Tommy was making a lot of unforced errors, so he didn't put a lot of pressure on me," Djokovic said.

Del Potro defeated last year's runner-up, No. 10 Stanislas Wawrinka, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 6-3.
Monaco produced another upset by beating 15th-seeded Marin Cilic 6-4, 6-4, improving to 14-6 on clay this year, including a runner-up result in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in February. He will next face Gonzalez, who rallied to beat net-charging Jurgen Melzer of Austria 3-6, 6-3, 7-5.

Gonzalez was the runner-up in Rome two years ago and is 10-1 on clay this season.

Melzer won 40 of 65 points at the net but dropped his serve late in the third set when Gonzalez hit a backhand return winner up the line.

Gonzalez snapped his racket in half early in the match when he was struggling to counter Melzer's attacking game.-AP

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