Federer struggles past Seppi in Doha

Thu, 05 Jan 14:55:00 2012

Defending champion Roger Federer won a 20th straight match on Thursday by beating Andreas Seppi 6-3 5-7 6-4 in the quarter-finals of the Qatar Open to set up a final four meeting with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

TENNIS Roger Federer of Switzerland returns the ball to Andreas Seppi of Italy during their ATP Qatar Open tennis quarterfinal match at the Khalifa Tennis and Squash Complex in Doha on January 5, 2012 - 0

Federer, who had dropped just nine games in his opening two matches in Doha, struggled at times against the towering Italian and he will have to improve to beat Tsonga.

"I'm looking forward to playing him," said Federer in a court-side interview. "I hope we can live up to expectations."

The Swiss started brightly, winning Seppi's first service game, but soon lost his own serve with a double fault as the eighth seed came back to 2-3. The 16-times grand slam winner broke again and saw out the first set.

Seppi, who had never previously won a set in seven matches against Federer, was unbowed, going 0-40 up on his opponent's opening service game of the second set.

Federer hammered down consecutive aces to save the first two, but a tentative second serve from the world number three then enabled 27-year-old Seppi to seize his chance and go 2-0 ahead.

The Italian had another break chance for a 4-0 lead, but Federer escaped with a big serve that left Seppi helpless to trim the deficit to 1-3.

Seppi held and then broke Federer for a third time with a backhand winner to go 5-1 ahead.

Federer, 30, remains a fierce competitor and won the next four games to level, but then seemed to relax unduly and Seppi won eight of the next nine points to clinch the set.

Seppi, ranked 38 in the world, served first in the decider as he and Federer held to make it 1-1, but the Swiss ratcheted up the pressure and the Italian cracked, attempting a passing shot as Federer neared the net that went long to concede a decisive break.

There were flashes of Federer's genius, especially a half-volley drop-shot scooped from his feet in mid-court, but he continued to give the Italian chances.

At 3-4 down, Seppi had two opportunities to square the match on Federer's serve, but the Italian missed the first, hitting an attempted backhand winner into the net from the baseline, while the second was lost to a searing Federer serve.

"It was tough, I started well and was able to take control - in the second set he started to hit the ball better and in the third (set) it was close," Federer added.

ATP Doha : 1/4 finals

Tsonga eased into his semi against Federer with an untroubled 6-2 6-1 win over Spanish left-hander Albert Ramos.

"It's difficult to play against him (Federer)," the Frenchman said in a court-side interview. "I have to be perfect and play my best tennis but I know I can do it."

Tsonga started strongly against Ramos, breaking the 23-year-old in the opening game.

Ramos hugged the baseline, but Tsonga tempted him to the net with a sliced dropshot the Spaniard could not counter, giving the Frenchman a break chance.

Ramos saved this and another as Tsonga shanked a backhand passing shot into the net, but the world number six broke at the third attempt following a Ramos error.

Tsonga then held to serve to love in his first two service games, taking a 3-1 lead.

Following his second-round win on Wednesday, Tsonga said he was trying to come to the net more. However, this tactic was in little evidence in the opening stages of Thursday's encounter and his first notable foray forward ended in failure as he scuffed his shot into the net.

Ramos, ranked a career-high 66th in the world, seemed to overcome his early service loss, but Tsonga then upped the tempo, hitting a series of bruising ground strokes the Spaniard could only parry as Tsonga eventually put away a forehand winner deep to the right of his opponent for another break point.

The Spaniard then came to the net, hitting a short stop volley which a groaning Tsonga dispatched cross court for a second break and a 5-2 lead.

Tsonga surged 40-0 ahead for three set points. He blew the first, racing to the net to hit a forehand volley that went long, but won it at the second attempt with a blistering serve Ramos could not return.

With the first set in the bag, Tsonga was more expansive, advancing to the net to hit a range of backhand, forehand and smash winners.

Under-pressure Ramos made further mistakes. A long backhand put him a break point down, an error he compounded when he missed an easy put-away at the net to give Tsonga the game and a 2-1 lead in the second set.

Tsonga survived a scare in the next game, saving three break points and then wrapped up the game swiftly as Ramos faded.

ATP Doha : Ramos vs Tsonga

Eurosport / Reuters

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