Federer Recovers After Sloppy Start, Djokovic Struggles


New York, Sep 6: Roger Federer recovered from a stuttering start to finally beat Lleyton Hewitt for the 14th time in succession, posting a 4-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 victory into the fourth round of the US Open Saturday.

"The way I came through, I was very happy, because I knew that being down a set against Lleyton is always going to be a difficult situation for me to be in," said Federer. "Make one more mistake and I'm in the fifth set maybe, or I go down completely. So I was relieved coming through."

Fourth seed Novak Djokovic battled to overcome American qualifier Jesse Witten 6-7 (2-7), 6-3, 7-6 (7-2), 6-4, while Czech number 15 Radek Stepanek beat German Philipp Kohlschreiber 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-3.

Djokovic, the 2007 finalist, struggled through a match containing 15 breaks of serve, taking nearly three and a half hours to advance into the second week.

"Those matches have to appear sometime during the tournament," said the Serb. "Maybe the good thing is that I have played this match in the third round. I have high ambitions for this tournament."

American journeyman Witten, who returns to the Challenger circuit next week in Tulsa after his big adventure, rallied from 5-2 down in the opening set, winning in a tiebreaker before the seed slowly took control against a player appearing in only his second major.

Top seed Federer kept his bid for a record sixth straight title at Flushing Meadows alive as he made a second-set recovery to turn the tide.

But for a few moments, the world number one looked almost human on court, letting go of a 4-2, 40-0 lead in the opening set as Hewitt suddenly seized momentum.

After winning the first set with breaks of Federer's last two serve, the top seed suddenly found some of the fire in his lethal game to slowly cut down on his mounting unforced errors and eventually run out the winner.

But it was far from straightforward, with Federer wasting a 30-0 lead as he served for victory, with Hewitt clawing one of two breaks back for 3-5. Federer claimed the win on his second chance two games later in just over two and a half hours.

"I was pretty happy the way I played today," said 2001 champion Hewitt, a year after hip surgery last summer that resurrected his career. "I'm happy the way that I played the last couple of weeks.

"Against Roger, you can't really play the style of tennis that you want to play out there. That's the hard thing.

"When he is able to play the way he wants to play and dictate terms, he's going to be very tough to beat."

The win puts Federer into the second week of the Slam where he last lost in 2003. He will face the winner from Spain's Tommy Robredo and American James Blake.

The Swiss ended with a high unforced error count totalling 59 - more than 30 off his dependable forehand side - while striking 15 aces and 51 winners.

Federer improved his record at the Open to 48 wins and four defeats as he aims for a 16th career Grand Slam title.

The Swiss guaranteed himself a lock on the number one ranking through the victory, keeping Andy Murray at bay no matter how far the Scot progresses.

In women's play, Nadia Petrova will face off in the fourth round against American surprise packet Melanie Oudin, who stunned 2006 champion Maria Sharapova 3-6, 6-4, 7-5.

The Russian three-time Grand Slam winner took treatment on her upper arm in the third set and was plagued by a demoralising 21 double-faults.

Oudin, 17, has duplicated her Wimbledon round of 16 showings and was in complete shock after adding the Russian to a hit list that began with fourth seed Elena Dementieva.

"I fought as hard as I could, I just can't believe this. I've always been so competitive. I really have belief. I got lucky in the third set as Maria double-faulted. But I was putting pressure on her second serve."



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