Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Nadal exit no distraction for Federer

Nadal exit no distraction for Federer

Roger Federer denies there is any extra pressure on him now arch-rival Rafael Nadal is out of the French Open.

Second seed Federer almost followed reigning champion Nadal out of Roland Garros today, the Swiss recovering from two sets down to defeat Germany's Tommy Haas in a fourth-round thriller on Philippe Chatrier court.

The world number two faced a break point at 3-4 down in the third set against Haas, saving it with a wonderful inside-out cross-court forehand.

That was the catalyst for a recovery that puts him back on course to claim the only grand-slam title not in his collection.

But he insists things have not suddenly got easier because Nadal, the deposed king of the Parisian clay, has fallen by the wayside.

"Sure it was a big upset," Federer said of the Spaniard's four-set defeat to unheralded Swede Robin Soderling yesterday.

"But the focus wasn't on that. Of course the dream scenario is to beat Rafa here in the final but I've got to concentrate on my part of the draw and make sure I come through like today.

"Tommy Haas was very good today and that is where my focus was."

Federer did not drop a single point in his first six service games but he still lost the first set, on a tie-break.

He went a break up at the start of the second set but his game suddenly went missing, his returns went awry and Haas seized the initiative.

He broke twice to take the set and capitalised on more Federer foibles to go 40-30 up with the Swiss serving 3-4 down.

Federer's superb forehand saved the day and he won that game, and the following eight, to turn the match on its head.

"In a situation like that, you don't really think about who is out of the draw or not," said the 13-time grand-slam champion.

"You just try to come through yourself and it's hard enough staying positive when you're down two sets to love and a break point.

"It was a great battle for me and I'm thrilled to be through and given another chance."

Federer reckons Nadal's exit will only affect him if he makes Sunday's final. He has lost to the Mallorcan in the last three finals, and in the semi-finals in 2005.

"I'm used to any kind of situation so it doesn't affect me in a big way," he added.

"It definitely changes it up if I were to make the final. But we're not there yet, so honestly it hasn't changed a whole lot for me."

Haas, the world number 63, admitted squandering a great chance to cause an upset.

"It's frustrating because you know you're very close - you win that break point, you are serving for the match," said the 31-year-old, a former world number two.

"So it obviously goes through your head. It hurts. But this is tennis. It's never over until the last point. You've just got to tip your hat and say, 'That's why he's Roger Federer'."

The German added: "(Novak) Djokovic is out, Nadal is out, maybe Roger was feeling it a little bit knowing that this is maybe a great opportunity for him."

In today's other completed last-16 match, 16th seed Tommy Robredo made the quarter-finals here for the fourth time thanks to his 6-4 5-7 7-6 (7/4) 6-2 win over Philipp Kohlschreiber.

Robredo is the only Spaniard left in the men's draw following the exits of Nadal and Fernando Verdasco yesterday.

Kohlschreiber failed to reproduce the exploits that saw him oust fourth seed Djokovic in the previous round.

There was an error in this gadget