News Column

Federer Steadier on Controversial Madrid Blue Clay

May 11, 2012

Bill Scott, dpa

Roger Federer found his feet on the slick blue courts which have brought down his main rivals in the past 24 hours at the Madrid Masters, with the third seed advancing his own clay cause with a 6-4, 6-4 defeat of David Ferrer to reach the semi-finals.

Federer, who often appears to hover over the court with his light-handed yet lethal style, will bid to overhaul Rafael Nadal on second in the ATP rankings.

Following the Spaniard's angry exit on Thursday on the controversial clay, the Swiss has that chance if he can win the title on Sunday.

His opponent in the semis will be Serb Tipsarevic, who beat world number one and top seed Novak Djokovic 7-6 (7-2), 6-3 for only the second time in his career as he also adapted to conditions which have some players up an arms and other happily going about their business.

Djokovic saved three match points late in his match, the first two on aces. But his compatriot held steady to earn the upset a game later.

"I want to forget this week as soon as possible and move on to the real clay courts," said Djokovic. "They can do what they like, I won't be here next year if this clay stays.

"Janko played great match, it was one of his best events. I hope he can go all the way. I missed chances in opening games on return. Any time I had a chance he delivered his best shot."

Federer produced more of the effortless tennis that he employed in his defeat a day earlier of Richard Gasquet, a rout which took less than an hour.

Against Ferrer, the Spanish bulldog with one of the biggest hearts in the game, the third seed claimed the opening set on a break. But the number five challenger did not waver, holding serve steadily in the second set before closing it out after a break for 5-4.

Federer, winner of three titles this season, now stands 13-0 against the Spaniard, who owns the same number so far in 2012.

"I missed some opportunities late in the match, and he hung in there," said Federer. "The surface is quick and anything can happen.

"I'm happy to win but I've got a tough semi-final coming. It's unusual to have only one of the top four guys here, but I'll take it."

The Swiss won his 26th match of the season against three losses and takes a 4-0 record into the semi with Tipsarevic.

On the bottom of the draw, Czech sixth seed Tomas Berdych ended the joy for Fernando Verdasco as he took down Thursday's conqueror of Nadal 6-1, 6-2, marking his tenth victory against the Madrid left-hander.

2010 French Open semi-finalist Berdych will next face on-form Argentine Juan del Potro, a winner over 16th seed Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-3, 6-4.

In women's play, Serena Williams won her seventh match in a row against Maria Sharapova, with the American ninth seed posting a 6-1, 6-3 win into the WTA semi-finals.

William was not put off her game by the slick clay which has prompted an angry Rafael Nadal to vow not to return in 2013 if the controversial blue clay remains in place as organizers say they hope it will after a trial period at this edition.

Williams, a 13-time Grand Slam winner who went through with 11 aces and 28 winners over world number two Sharapova, said that she can deal with conditions on court.

"If I'm not here next year, it won't be because of the clay."

Top seed Victoria Azarenka, the Australian Open titleholder, rallied to overcome French Open champion Li Na 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 and remained puzzled as to how she pulled it off.

She next plays fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska, who beat US qualifier Varvara Lepchenko 6-4, 6-4.

Source: Copyright 2012 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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