CINCINNATI // Roger Federer overcame a massive scare as he kept intact his hopes of maintaining his status as the world's No 1. The Swiss player nearly lost three successive games for the first time in five years before scrambling to a 6-7, 7-6, 6-0 win over Robbie Ginepri in the second round of the Cincinnati Masters Series.
Federer was staring a shock defeat in the face when he was broken to go 5-6 down in the second set, having lost the first set on a tiebreak, but Ginepri, an American ranked down at 64 in the world, did not quite have what it took to close the match out. Had he done so it would have left the door open for Rafael Nadal to end Federer's record four-and-half year reign as No 1. Instead, Federer limped on into a second set tiebreak which he won only after 12 tense rallies when Ginepri hit a not too venomous forehand drive from the Siwss back across court and just wide.
It may nevertheless have strengthened Nadal's belief that he can take over as No 1 quite soon, and possibly still this week. If Federer fails to reach the semi-finals and Nadal wins the tournament, it will still happen. "I enjoy the challenge of being number one in the world," Federer said, despite his scare. "I like that. I would rather be me than him (Nadal). "I have had a great run so far, and although I have been disappointed that my hard work has not paid off with a grand slam win, I am over it now."
Federer created many opportunities to win rallies which he could not take, and crucially he could not convert the three break points he had at 4-3 in the second set, when he had Ginepri in trouble. Each time the American, who came close to beating Federer here in the semi-finals three years ago, managed to get the ball back just one more time, and long enough for an anxious Federer to make a mistake.
This match followed Federer's epic loss of the Wimbledon title to Nadal in the final three and a half weeks ago, and then a shock opening round loss to the Frenchman Gilles Simon in the Rogers Cup in Toronto last week. Federer broke immediately at the start of the final set and the danger was over. He accelerated to 4-0, and by the end of the contest, his release of tension was clearly palpable. His cause has been improved with the news that the big serving American Andy Roddick, who was in Federer's side of the draw, has pulled out due to a neck injury.
The only early shock in the event was the departure of the 12th seeded Spaniard Tommy Robredo, who was beaten in straight sets 7-6, 6-4 by the Swedish player Tommy Robredo. * Reuters