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Federer rebounds from upset to pound Ljubicic

Roger Federer bounced back from a rare loss to beat Ivan Ljubicic 6-4, 6-3 in a relegation match at the Kooyong Classic.

india Updated: Jan 12, 2006 13:06 IST

Roger Federer bounced back from a rare loss to beat Ivan Ljubicic 6-4, 6-3 in a relegation match at the Kooyong Classic tune-up for the Australian Open that starts here Monday.

The world number one goes into the Grand Slam an overwhelming favourite but lost in opening play Wednesday to resurgent German Tommy Haas, who booked his place in the Kooyong final besting Guillermo Coria of Argentina 6-4, 6-4.

"I got broken a couple of times, but I served pretty well," said Haas, the world number 41. "The wind wasn't blowing that much. You just try to go out there and work on some things.

"It's perfect practise leading to the Australian Open. Four years ago, I didn't win a match here but did well at the Open," said Haas, who became the first player into Saturday's final.

Federer's win boosted his career mark against world number nine Ljubicic, one of Croatia's Davis Cup trophy heroes, to 9-3, with the Swiss winning five in 2005 -- including three in early-season finals.

Federer, who is fine-tuning his lethal game in hopes of a second Australian Open title, still has work to do after struggling at times against Ljubicic, who played eight finals last season, winning only two indoors in the autumn.

Federer produced an 81-4 record in 2005, losing the final of the Masters Cup to David Nalbandian in November carrying an ankle injury that is now fully healed.

Nalbandian, also a member of the Kooyong field, pulled out Thursday with a virus, replaced by Max Mirnyi of Belarus.

Federer still has room to improve after failing to convert on four break point chances against the Croatian in the fourth game of the first set.

Federer, a six-time Grand Slam winner, won the set but began the second by dropping serve before getting it back immediately as Ljubicic's serve broke down.

The Croatian lost on three of his next four with Federer smoothly serving out the win, which kept him alive for consolation honours at the invitation-only event.

First Published: Jan 12, 2006 13:06 IST