Federer continues resurgence as Dolgopolov reaches new heights

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Roger's return: Federer has enjoyed a fine start to 2014, winning the Dubai title last month and reaching the semis in Indian Wells.

Roger Federer kept his bid for a fifth Indian Wells ATP Masters title on track Thursday with a 7-5, 6-1 victory over Kevin Anderson.

The 32-year-old Swiss great needed just 69 minutes to book his berth in the final four, where he'll face Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov.

Federer saved the only break point he faced in the match early in the opening set and clearly found the answer to the tall South African's booming serve.

Federer broke Anderson at love in the final game of the first set, then broke him twice more before finishing the match with a love service game.

"You know, I gave myself chances and started with a few more returns in play at five-all," Federer said. "I was just also now in the match at that point, feeling good movement-wise, feeling good absorbing his pace. Then also being aggressive myself.

"I think the combination there in those 10 minutes, they all worked out for me. So it was big to win the set and then to go on to break early in the second. Then double break was like a bonus. From then on I was home basically.

"It was a really good match for me," Federer said.

It was a textbook performance from the former world number one, whose ranking has slipped to eighth in the world but is projected to rise to five next week by reaching the final four.

Despite the decline in his ranking after a modest 2013 campaign, Federer is enjoying a strong start to the season. He arrived in California off an impressive title run in Dubai, where he claimed his first ATP trophy in nine months.

Federer last played Dolgopolov in the Swiss Indoors in Basel in 2010, when the Ukrainian retired while trailing. But Federer said he had practised with Dolgopolov late last year and before the Dubai tournament, and is looking forward to facing him again.

"He was playing really well in practice," Federer said. "He really takes the ball early. He likes to take advantage of the fact when there is a short ball he just smashes it, and he's got a great serve. Definitely going to be some interesting shots out there." 

Dolgopolov also used a stellar return game to neutralize the power of Milos Raonic in a 6-3, 6-4 quarter-final win over the big-serving Canadian.

Dolgopolov, the world number 31 from Ukraine, reached the semi-finals of an elite ATP Masters tournament for the first time with the win over Raonic, coninuing a fine run which has included a third-round upset of world number one Rafael Nadal.

Dolgopolov knew that returning well would be crucial against Raonic.

"I'm quite pleased how I anticipated on his serve and have seen the toss of the ball and was really, really concentrated to get those serves back," Dolgopolov said.

Raonic, playing his first tournament since injuring his ankle in reaching the third round of the Australian Open, was plainly astonished to find serves of 145mph (233 kph) being sent back over the net to him.

"He was a factor of why I didn't serve as well as I would have liked," Raonic said. "He made me think more than most people can on my service games."

After Dolgopolov had raced through the opening set, Raonic seemed to have found his range, taking a quick 3-0 lead in the second. However, Dolgopolov at last converted on his seventh break chance of the set in the fifth game, and broke Raonic again for a 4-3 lead that he wouldn't relinquish.

The quarter-finals conclude on Friday, when world number two Novak Djokovic takes on France's Julien Benneteau and American John Isner faces Latvian Ernests Gulbis.

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Shocks continue at Indian Wells as Murray & Wawrinka crash out

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Expected: Wawrinka knew his incredible run had to be ended at some stage.

Kevin Anderson handed Australian Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka his first defeat of 2014 on Wednesday to reach the quarter-finals of the Indian Wells ATP Masters.

South Africa's Anderson beat Wawrinka 7-6 (7/1), 4-6, 6-1 to end Wawrinka's run of 13 straight match wins to open 2014, which included a title run in Chennai before his maiden Grand Slam triumph in Melbourne.

"I knew it's going to happen," Wawrinka said. "I'm not going to keep winning every tournament."

Two-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray was another fourth-round casualty, falling 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 to big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic who set up a quarter-final clash with Alexandr Dolgopolov.

The 28th-seeded Ukrainian showed no sign of a let-down after his third-round ouster of world number one Rafael Nadal, beating Italian Fabio Fognini 6-2, 6-4.

Wawrinka's exit ended the possibility of a tasty all-Swiss quarter-final between him and Roger Federer. Instead Anderson will face Federer, a four-time champion in the California desert who edged German veteran Tommy Haas 6-4, 6-4.

Wawrinka, whose run to the title in Australia included wins over Novak Djokovic, Tomas Berdych and Rafael Nadal, fought back from an early break in the second set force a third. But he said he never really felt comfortable.

"It took me a lot of energy to come back here, to practice well, to win the first two matches, especially against (Ivo) Karlovic," said Wawrinka, who hadn't played an ATP tournament since the Australian Open.

"Today I felt that my energy was a little bit down. Mentally, I wasn't ready."

Anderson, who had lost three prior matches against Wawrinka, said he adopted an aggressive strategy based on their most recent meeting – when Wawrinka beat him in three sets in Shanghai last year.

"We had a really close match," Anderson said. "I lost in a third set breaker. Just taking what I could from that match, one of the things was to try to be as aggressive as I can when possible, and I thought I did that quite well for most of the match."

Like Wawrinka, Murray left feeling dissatisfied with himself. He broke the mighty Raonic serve for a 2-1 lead in the third set, then his game deserted him.

"The third set was just a bad, bad set of tennis," said Murray, who has yet to reach a final since having back surgery in September. "That's what's disappointing for me, because the rest of the match was OK."

After gaining the advantage in the third, Murray was immediately broken at love, and Raonic broke him again for a 4-2 lead he wouldn't surrender.

"I think there was mistakes that he made that he wouldn't have liked to make," Raonic said. "I think his mistakes were critical that he made in that first break I got.

"But then I felt like I sort of got going a bit more after that. I sort of picked it up for the rest of the set," added Raonic, who closed out the match with a game that included two of his 15 aces and a crisp forehand winner on match point.

Raonic wasn't surprised to find himself facing world number 31 Dolgopolov from a quarter of the draw that included both Nadal and Murray.

He said Wawrinka's Grand Slam breakthrough in Melbourne had shown players like himself and Dolgopolov that the game's biggest names – Nadal, Djokovic, Federer and Murray – were indeed beatable.

"I think everybody sort of in that top-10 range, also a little bit outside trying to break through, took a deep breath and said, 'Why can't that be me?'" Raonic said.

Raonic and Anderson, both known for their big serves, said the desert hardcourts are also ideally suited to their games, a belief echoed by American John Isner.

"For guys that are big, it's a perfect surface for us," said Isner, who beat Spain's Fernando Verdasco 7-6 (7/3), 3-6, 6-3 and will face Latvia's Ernests Gulbis in the quarters.

"I don't think it's any surprise that myself, Milos, and Kevin are all still alive in this tournament."

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Djokovic books clash with in-form Cilic

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Not at his best: Djokovic is still struggling to rediscover his top form.

Novak Djokovic wobbled but avoided joining Rafael Nadal in making an early exit from the BNP Paribas Open.

Stanislas Wawrinka aside, the top men have been finding life rather difficult in the Californian desert, capped by world number one Nadal's shock loss against Alexandr Dolgopolov on Monday evening.

Fourth seed Tomas Berdych lost his first match and Andy Murray scraped through an ugly clash with Jiri Vesely on Monday, while Juan Martin del Potro did not even take to the court because of injury.

Djokovic headed to Indian Wells without a title for the first season since 2006 and question marks remain about his form after a 6-1 3-6 6-1 win over world number 91 Alejandro Gonzalez.

The 25-year-old had never won a main-draw match on the ATP Tour before this week but caused Djokovic plenty of problems. And the Serb is likely to have to raise his level if he is to make the quarter-finals, with in-form Marin Cilic up next.

The Croatian has blossomed since hiring Goran Ivanisevic as his coach ahead of the start of the season and Tuesday's 6-4 6-3 win over Tommy Robredo was his 20th of the year.

There may be no Nadal any more, but three Spanish men are in the last 16. Fernando Verdasco was the most impressive on Tuesday, beating eighth seed Richard Gasquet 7-6 (7/5) 6-1 while Berdych's conqueror Roberto Bautista Agut and Feliciano Lopez are also through.

In the women's tournament, last year's runner-up Caroline Wozniacki was well beaten by seventh seed Jelena Jankovic.

Wozniacki led 3-1 in the opening set but Jankovic reeled off 10 games in a row before going on to win 6-3 6-1.

Jankovic had lost her previous five matches against Wozniacki, with her last win coming in Indian Wells four years ago.

The Serbian struggled with a back problem in her first match, and she said: "I was pretty pleased with the way I played and how composed I stayed throughout the whole match.

"I kind of surprised myself, especially because of my back. Two nights ago I hurt my back, and yesterday did not hit at all. I had a lot of treatment, I could not put my shoes on and all these kind of things.

"So I went on court today not knowing how I was going to feel."

Top seed Li Na of China advanced to the quarter-finals with a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Canada's Aleksandra Wozniak to set up a rematch with the woman she defeated in the final at Melbourne, Dominika Cibulkova. 

The Australian Open finalist beat eighth-seeded Petra Kvitova 6-3, 6-2.

Simona Halep won the battle of the rising stars against Eugenie Bouchard 6-2 1-6 6-4 to reach the quarter-finals.

Australian Open semi-finalist Bouchard broke serve to lead 4-3 in the decider but Halep hit back with three games in a row.

The Romanian won more singles titles than any woman except Serena Williams last season and has carried the momentum into 2014.

Bouchard had suffered three losses to lower-ranked players since her run in Melbourne so felt she had got back on track.

The 20-year-old said: "I think I've improved since Australia. I feel like I'm playing at a better level. On the court as well I feel good mentally. It's never a straight road to the top. It's a learning experience."

Sixth seed Halep next meets Australian Casey Dellacqua, who was the beneficiary of American Lauren Davis' withdrawal through illness.

Meanwhile, Maria Sharapova's conqueror Camila Giorgi was brought firmly back down to earth with a 6-2 6-1 hammering by fellow Italian Flavia Pennetta.

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