Federer Falls Early At Masters Cup

SHANGHAI, China (AP) -- Not to worry, says Roger Federer. His game is very much intact even though he lost consecutive matches for the first time in 4 1/2 years.

The latest defeat was to Fernando Gonzalez of Chile, a 4-6, 7-6 (1), 7-5 decision Monday at the Masters Cup. Federer, the defending champion, entered the match with a 15-0 record in round-robin play at the season-ending tournament. It was the top-ranked Swiss star's first loss in 11 meetings against No. 7 Gonzalez.

"Some players or people might think, 'Now he's more vulnerable,"' Federer said. "I disagree, obviously. I'm going to hopefully show them again this week and then obviously next year again."

In the other Red Group match, No. 5 Andy Roddick survived a second-set lapse to beat No. 5 Nikolay Davydenko 6-3, 4-6, 6-2.

Roddick will lead the United States against Russia in the Davis Cup final at the end of the month. He has been bothered by injuries that kept him out of tournaments in Madrid and Paris, sandwiched around losing in the first round in Lyon.

The last time Federer dropped two straight matches was in 2003 when he fell in the third round at Hamburg, then in the first round at the French Open. He now most likely will have to beat Roddick and Davydenko to reach the semifinals.

At 26, Federer hopes to pass Pete Sampras' record of 14 Grand Slam titles soon -- he has 12 now. And despite a shaky last few weeks -- he lost twice to ninth-ranked David Nalbandian, most recently in the third round at the Paris Masters -- he quickly points out he had a pretty good season. He won three Grand Slam titles and extended his record run with the No. 1 ranking to a fourth year.

On Monday, Federer was untouchable early in the match, and it looked as if a repeat was in the making of the Australian Open final in January when he beat Gonzalez in straight sets.

"I was feeling really bad on the court," Gonzalez said. "But after, he went down a little bit and my level went up. I think the key of the match was my serve and don't be scared to go for my shots."

Gonzalez, who has one of the best forehands in the game, suspected he was due against Federer.

"After 10 times, it's my turn now," he said.

Federer said he figured out what he was doing wrong recently and corrected it in practice.

"I thought actually I played pretty good," Federer said. "In some ways I have regrets, and in some ways I don't because I just thought it was ridiculous what kind of shots he came up with. But you've got to give him credit for that."

Federer was never in trouble until the second-set tiebreaker. That's when Gonzalez, who had won only two sets in their previous meetings, stunned him by bolting to a 6-0 lead. Federer saved one set point before sending a forehand long to even the match.

AP - Nov 12, 10:10 am EST
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Shouting and pumping his fist, Gonzalez had break points for the first time in consecutive games in the third set but couldn't convert. Federer squandered five break points of his own. The Chilean finally converted a break to pull ahead 6-5.

Serving for the match, he pulled ahead 40-0, then double-faulted. But Federer sent a forehand wide to end it.

"You can't do much when he drills it into the corners," Federer said. "The backhand, that's what killed me today. It was a pity because I think I was playing exactly the way I should have."

Roddick's regular coach, Jimmy Connors, isn't in Shanghai, but Davis Cup coach Patrick McEnroe is around. He's doing TV commentary and watched from the stands.

Roddick says he is healthy now, taking advantage of the time off to build up his leg muscles and work on his volleys, which looked sharper than in the past.

He appeared in control after taking the first set and breaking Davydenko to pull ahead 4-3 in the second. Then he then won only two points in the next three games as the Russian broke him twice to even the match.

Roddick smashed his racket after missing a forehand wide on set point, then ran off five straight games to take a 5-1 lead in the third.

He gave the racket to fans afterward, saying with a smile: "Better in their hands than a trash can somewhere, right?"


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