World number one Roger Federer was dumped out of the Rome Masters after losing his quarter-final clash with the Czech Republic's unseeded Radek Stepanek in straight sets, in another bad result for the Swiss ahead of Roland-Garros.
Roger Federer's preparations for the French Open suffered a further blow when he was beaten in straight sets in the quarter-finals of the Rome Masters by unseeded Czech Radek Stepanek on Friday.
The world number one, struggling for consistency on clay ahead of the year's second Grand Slam later this month, was the second big gun of the day to fall to an unseeded player after his Swiss compatriot Stanislas Wawrinka won an entertaining tussle with American James Blake 6-7 7-6 6-1.
The tournament had already lost world number two Rafael Nadal on Wednesday and fourth seed Nikolay Davydenko on Thursday.
Federer was comfortable on his service games in the first set of the quarter-final, taking four to love, but he failed to force any break points. Stepanek wrapped up the ensuing tiebreak 7-4 with an ace as the Swiss lost a set for the first time in the tournament.
A fired-up Stepanek saved two break points in the first game of the second set and then snapped the top seed's serve immediately after.
The Swiss broke back in the seventh, only to surrender his serve again the following game, a wild shot giving away the vital point. He dragged himself back in contention two games later, the counter-break coming courtesy of a beautiful backhand volley.
But Federer was unable to capitalise on two mini-breaks in the tiebreak and will now have to wait at least another year for his first Rome title.
Stepanek could face Novak Djokovic in the semis if the Australian Open champion can get past Spain's Nicolas Almagro in the late match.
Wawrinka made a confident start, breaking Blake in the third game. But the American eighth seed held his nerve, broke back in the eighth game and took the first set in a tiebreak 7-5.
Blake showed more resilience in the second set, saving four set points when 5-3 down and two more in the tiebreak before Wawrinka levelled the score with a sweet backhand winner down the line.
The Swiss, who had treatment on back and leg problems at the end of the second set, used the momentum from the tiebreak win to romp home in the decider.
Wawrinka, who had beaten former world number ones Juan Carlos Ferrero and Marat Safin and Britain's Andy Murray to reach this stage, will meet the winner of the match between American sixth seed Andy Roddick and Spain's Tommy Robredo.
Date created : 2008-05-09