Saturday, July 10, 2004

Wimbledon champ makes himself at home on red clay

The Associated Press

GSTAAD, Switzerland - Top-ranked Roger Federer rallied to defeat Czech Radek Stepanek in three sets Friday, winning his second match of the day to reach the semifinals of the Swiss Open.

Federer defeated Stepanek 6-1, 5-7, 6-4 in an hour and 37 minutes on red clay in the Swiss Alps.

Only hours earlier, in a battle of master servers, Federer defeated Ivo Karlovic of Croatia 6-7 (5), 6-3, 7-6 (4).

"Yes, it was tiring," Federer acknowledged. "I saved energy, as you saw, by playing a lot of serve and volley. The clay is very quick here and it works well."

In the semifinals, the Swiss will meet Italian qualifier Potito Starace, who toppled defending champion and fourth-seeded Jiri Novak 6-4, 6-3.

"Starace is a qualifier, and it is a surprise to see him in the semifinals here," Federer said. "But he played well at the French Open and certainly has all the qualities to shine here."

HALL OF FAME: The top seed at the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships has never won the tournament title - and that won't change this year.

Seventh-seeded Alexander Popp defeated No. 1 Vincent Spadea 6-2, 6-2 in the quarterfinals Friday, extending to 28 years the streak of top-seed futility at the grass court tournament.

Popp will meet fifth-seeded Cyril Saulnier today in the his first ATP semifinal. Saulnier beat third-seeded Jurgen Melzer 6-1, 7-5,

In the other semifinal, Greg Rusedski will meet eight-seeded Antony Dupuis.

SWEDISH OPEN: French Open champion Gaston Gaudio beat Rafael Nadal 6-2, 6-3 Friday to advance to the semifinals.

Gaudio, the No. 2 seed, will face Robin Soderling in the semifinals. The 19-year-old Swede beat Argentina's Juan Ignacio Chela 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-2.

FED CUP: Martina Navratilova and her U.S. teammates enter this weekend's Fed Cup match against Austria without much star power.

There's nary a Williams, Davenport or Capriati in the lineup, but there is no lack of motivation. In fact, all the talk about the missing players has only turned this group into a tight-knit team out to avenge a stunning upset loss to the Austrians in 2002.

"We're getting all this negative reporting about who isn't here," Navratilova said. "We've become very close as a team. We go out together. We're determined to win."

American Chanda Rubin, ranked 24th, will start off against No. 324 Barbara Schwartz. Lisa Raymond, No. 31, then goes against the top Austrian, No. 89 Barbara Schett.

On Sunday, the singles will be reversed, and Navratilova and Raymond will face the Austrian doubles pair of Schett and Patricia Wartusch.

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