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Federer, Sharapova challenged, but move on at Open
Both drop a set to give foes hope. In a late match, Kim Clijsters ousts Venus Williams in three sets.
By KEITH NIEBUHR
Published September 7, 2005
NEW YORK - The window opened Tuesday, if only slightly.
For Nicolas Kiefer.
For Nadia Petrova.
And, well, for everyone else still alive in the field.
Roger Federer was tested. Maria Sharapova was challenged. But today, each of the U.S. Open's top seeds remains alive, Federer because of a strong finish and Sharapova thanks largely to a Petrova collapse.
"That's the reason he's No. 1, because he makes these shots, these important shots," Kiefer said of Federer. "We are on Earth, but he's playing on a different planet."
Sharapova's 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 quarterfinal victory at Arthur Ashe Stadium was filled with numerous momentum shifts as the ninth-seeded Petrova matched her Russian countrywoman power for power and shot for shot. The 2 hour, 30-minute marathon looked as if it would head to a third-set tiebreaker, but trailing 4-5 in the final set, Petrova couldn't convert a 40-15 lead. The match ended after she double-faulted, dumped consecutive backhands into the net, then missed a backhand wide while going for a winner to keep the game alive. Petrova dropped her head in disgust while Sharapova, realizing she had barely escaped, sheepishly pulled her yellow visor down over her eyes.
"I had everything in my hands," Petrova said.
The 18-year-old Sharapova, who had limited success in two previous Opens, reached the semifinals for the first time. She had lost a total of 12 games in her previous four matches. She next faces No. 4 Kim Clijsters, a 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 winner over No. 10 Venus Williams in a match that ended early this morning.
"I knew it was going to be tough," Sharapova said of her match with Petrova.
Federer, meantime, reached the quarterfinals with a 6-4, 6-7 (7-3), 6-3, 6-4 win over the unseeded Kiefer that was anything but routine. At least by his standards. The defending champion hit 43 winners but committed an uncharacteristic 33 errors, didn't take command until the third set and at times looked lethargic. He had yet to drop a set until Tuesday.
The good news?
He improved to 68-3 this year with 32 straight victories on hard courts, which trails only Pete Sampras in the Open era.
"I think these are the matches that eventually give me a chance or a shot of playing great," Federer said.
He can expect another test in the quarters, where he will face 11th-seeded David Nalbandian, one of the few players who owns a winning career record against Federer (5-2). Nalbandian, who advanced Tuesday with a 4-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-4, 6-2 win over Davide Sanguinetti, beat Federer in the fourth round of the Open two years ago on his way to the semifinals.
"I had some tough losses against Nalbandian," Federer said. "I like to play guys who have beaten me, especially early in the career, try to get them back."
In Tuesday's other fourth-round matches, 2001 champion Lleyton Hewitt, the third seed, beat No. 15 Dominik Hrbaty 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 in 94 minutes. Hewitt next plays unseeded Jarkko Nieminen of Finland, a 6-2, 7-6 ( 8-6), 6-3 winner over Fernando Verdasco.
"I think I stepped it up today," Hewitt said. "I got out of the blocks well."
Hewitt now has reached the quarterfinals or better at the Open six straight years. He was the 2004 runnerup to Federer.