Federer and Soderling eye up showdown

Roger Federer and Robin Soderling, who broke Federer’s streak of 23 Grand Slam semi-finals in a row, moved closer to a US Open quarter-final showdown with straight-set triumphs on a windy Saturday.

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World number two Federer, seeking his seventh consecutive US Open final, fired 13 aces and 31 winners in advancing to the fourth round by beating 109th-ranked Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.

“Playing in the wind was so hard,” Federer said. “Against the wind it only takes a little bit of a bad serving game and the other guy is back in the match. I think I did a good job on that front.”

The Swiss star, a five-time US Open champion who owns a record 16 Grand Slam titles, will next face the winner of a later match between Austrian 13th seed Jurgen Melzer and Spanish 22nd seed Juan Carlos Ferrero.

Swedish fifth seed Soderling, who lost all 12 prior matches against Federer until his French Open quarter-final upset last June, beat 48th-ranked Dutchman Thiemo de Bakker 6-2, 6-3, 6-3 in brisk breezes.

“It was very tough. I was fighting the wind the whole time. During these conditions I played a pretty good match,” Soderling said. “It’s great to make it to the second week at the US Open. It will be very big next week.”

Soderling will play for a berth in the quarter-finals against Spanish 21st seed Albert Montanes, who led 6-2, 2-1 when 147th-ranked Japanese qualifier Kei Nishikori retired after only 38 minutes with a groin injury.

“He was not well physically so that was lucky for me,” Montanes said. “I realized he was very flat. He was not moving. I tried not to think of that but he was moving quite slowly.”

Soderling, who lost the French Open final to world number one Rafael Nadal, knows all too well who is likely to be in his path after Montanes.

“Everybody has been telling me since the draw came out I’m playing Roger in the quarters. It’s still far ahead,” Soderling said.

“It’s always difficult to play against Roger and I have played him a lot of times. In any tournament they play, Roger and Rafa will be the favorites, but there are a lot of players who can beat them.”

Federer, seeking his 64th career title, had won 40 US Open matches in a row before losing last year’s final to the now-injured Juan Martin Del Potro.

Soderling, whose best US Open showing was last year’s quarter-final run, made 30 winners and only 19 unforced errors.

De Bakker, 21, was ousted in the third round for the fourth Grand Slam in a row. No Dutchman has reached the last 16 at a Slam since Sjeng Schalken in 2004 at Wimbledon.

Nishikori, 20, was coming off an exhausting five-set upset of Croatian 11th seed Marin Cilic. Another victory would have matched his 2008 run to the fourth round as the best US Open showing by a Japanese man since 1937.

“I began to feel it in warmups,” Nishikori said. “I could not finish the tennis match.”

Montanes, 29, claimed his first spot in the fourth round in 36 Grand Slam appearances. He is among nine Spaniards to reach the third round, the most at any Slam tournament in the Open Era.

French 17th seed Gael Monfils fired 17 aces and 56 winners to advance by outlasting 44th-ranked Serbian Janko Tipsarevic 7-6 (7/4), 6-7 (4/7), 6-2, 6-4 in three hours and 42 minutes.

Three days past his 24th birthday, Monfils booked a fourth-round matchup against countryman Richard Gasquet, who ousted South African Kevin Anderson 6-4, 7-6 (7/3), 7-5.

Monfils, among a US Open record six Frenchman in the third round, matched his best US Open run by reaching the last 16 for the third year in a row. His only win in three prior matches with the Serb was by a retirement last year.

Gasquet, who also equaled his best US Open run from 2005, won four of the last five points in the second-set tie-breaker, the last on a service winner, and broke in the last game of the match for the win.

Anderson, 0-6 in Grand Slam matches before this week, failed to become the first South African man to reach the fourth round at a Slam since Wayne Ferreira’s 2003 Australian Open semi-final run.

Serbian third seed Novak Djokovic was set to play 108th-rated US wildcard James Blake in a night match at Arthur Ashe Stadium.


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