Federer, Nadal establish Dubai showdown

Updated: 2007-03-01 09:10
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DUBAI - Triple Grand Slam title holder Roger Federer and French Open champion Rafael Nadal came closer to their first meeting in more than three months Wednesday when each reached the quarter-finals of the Dubai Open.

But while top seed Federer cruised through impressively 7-5, 6-3 against Italian Daniele Bracchiali, title holder Nadal needed all his fight as well as a little luck to survive 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (7/2) against Russian Igor Andreev.

Federer, Nadal establish Dubai showdown
Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates his win against Russia's Igor Andreev at the Dubai Open tennis tournament February 28, 2007. [Reuters]

This was a startling match in which Nadal was given a time warning for toweling too long, a spectator collapsed when he was serving at 4-4 in the final set, delaying the match for five minutes, and twice when a line judge called the ball out giving Nadal match point, Andreev made successful Hawkeye challenges to get the rally replayed.

Had Nadal been able to capitalize when he got Andreev at love 40 on the Russian's serve at 3-3 in the second set, much may have been different.

Instead Nadal served a double fault at 30-40 in the next game to go 3-5 down and land himself in all sorts of trouble, which worsened when he went a break down at the start of the final set.

Eventually his defensive containing got him through - even though he tried to take the offensive to his opponent more than usual.

"I tried to play further up the court," Nadal said. "But it was not easy."

Federer's progress also contained remarkable moments, including an 11-deuce fourth game in the second set which lasted almost 20 minutes before Bracciali held serve, and a between-the-legs shot from Federer from well behind the baseline which hurtled for a winning pass.

It was such a stunning blow that Bracciali jokingly went down on one knee in front of Federer as the world number one walked to his chair at the end of the game, and when video camera focused on him, Federer, not normally especially triumphalist, could not help chuckling at what he had done as the crowd cheered.

"I did like it," he admitted. "It was a shot which I have not hit for a long time, and the last time I did it for a winner was in the Davis Cup against Sjeng Schalken (February 2003).

"It was definitely one of my best shots," Federer agreed. "It was from such a long way back. You do it a lot in practice, but not very often in matches, and the last time I tried it was against Marat Safin on match point in Australia (January 2005) and I missed, so I didn't think I'd do that again."

Federer next plays Novak Djokovic whom he beat in straight sets in the Australian Open.

Nadal may be relieved to find himself next playing Mikhail Youzhny and not Tomas Berdych, the sixth-seeded Czech, who has beaten Nadal in all their three meetings on hard courts - although the Russian also beat Nadal on this surface, in the US Open in September.

Youzhny came through 7-6 (8/6), 6-3 winner against Berdych.

Earlier Nikolay Davydenko, the third-seeded Russian who had struggled to get past Younes El Ayanoui, the wild card from Morocco, the day before, was beaten 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 by Olivier Rochus, the world number 34 from Belgium.