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Federer leads march of seeds

Fed Express took his first step towards yet another Masters Series title with a straight-set win over Chile's Massu.

india Updated: Mar 13, 2006 17:24 IST
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse

asWorld number one Roger Federer took his first step towards a third straight Indian Wells Masters Series titleon Sunday with a straight-set win over Chile's Nicolas Massu.

Despite his overwhelming dominance of the men's tour, Federer said he was just glad to get through his tournament opener, advancing to the third round with a 6-3, 7-6 (7/4) victory over the 2004 double Olympic gold medallist.

"I'm always worried about crashing out in the early rounds," Federer said. "I go to so many tournaments as titleholder, and always to back it up, it's never easy."

Second-seeded Spaniard Rafael Nadal, who conquered Federer in a three-set thriller in the final at Dubai last week, was also happy to make it through his first match, but said he'd have to play better than he did in a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Czech Jan Hernych if he was to progress much further.

"The first match always is very difficult," said the 19-year-old French Open champion, adding that swirling winds on the stadium court made things even tougher.

"Very difficult to play like this," said Nadal, who nabbed one break of serve in each set to pocket the victory. "I didn't feel good."

Federer and Nadal led a parade of the top eight men's seeds into the third round, on a day that saw 48 singles matches played in the wake of two rain-disrupted days.

Third-seeded American Andy Roddick survived a tense first-set tiebreaker, then overwhelmed Jose Acasuso in the second for a 7-6 (7/5), 6-0 victory.

Fourth-seeded David Nalbandian of Argentina beat US qualifer Justin Gimelstob 6-4, 6-4. Russian fifth seed Nikolay Davydenko of Russia downed Scotland's Andy Murray 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, and No. 6 Ivan Ljubic of Croatia beat Serbian Janko Tipsarevic 6-1, 6-4.

Seventh-seeded Argentinian Gaston Gaudio beat France's Cyril Saulnier 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, while eighth-seeded American Andre Agassi beat compatriot Paul Goldstein 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.

Agassi, an eight-time Grand Slam champion, led 4-2 in the second before Goldstein reeled off four games in a row to force the third set.

Then came a brief spritz of drizzle, which prompted Agassi to call for play to be halted.

The supervisor disagreed, and Agassi, 35, admitted later that he didn't know just how slippery the court was.

"Psychologically I have a hard time playing on a hard court when its drizzling," said Agassi, whose fears seemed justified when Goldstein slipped and fell.

"When he went down, I sort of got even more frustrated," Agassi added. "Are we waiting for someone to get hurt?"

But the veteran was able to channel his frustration, winning the last five games for the victory.

For the most part, rain wasn't a problem, a welcome change from the previous two days. However, it was still windy and chilly.

While Nadal found the conditions difficult, Federer seemed unperturbed. He had little trouble in the opening set, earning the crucial break in the sixth game to lead 4-2 and finishing it off with an ace on set point.

In the second, neither player could muster a break of serve, Federer missing on two chances and Massu on his lone opportunity as they went to the tiebreaker.

Federer muscled a backhand down the line to give himself a 6-3 lead, but netted a backhand volley before Massu sailed a forehand long.

While a possible championship showdown between Federer and Nadal remained a long way off, the women's draw produced an interesting fourth round clash as old foes Lindsay Davenport and Martina Hingis advanced.

Davenport, the second seed, beat fellow American Laura Granville 6-4, 6-0. Hingis, the former world number one who returned to the WTA Tour this year after a three-year retirement, defeated Austrian Sybille Bammer 6-0, 6-3.

"It should be an interesting next round," said Davenport, who owns a 14-10 record over Hingis. Their last match was in 2001.

"She's obviously a dangerous kind of floater around in the draw," Davenport said of Hingis. "But you've got to play however the draw is made."

Third-seeded Russian Maria Sharapova also reached the round of 16, along with fifth-seeded compatriot Anastasia Myskina.

Sharapova beat American Lisa Raymond 6-4, 6-0, while Myskina downed Poland's Marta Domachowska 7-5, 6-3.

Women's top seed Justine Henin-Hardenne of Belgium, playing catch-up, booked a third-round berth with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova.

First Published: Mar 13, 2006 17:24 IST