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Federer took it easy, Djokovic had a hard time

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Latest update : 2008-09-01

Roger Federer easily got rid of Czech Radek Stepanek in the third round of the US Open and came closer to his fifth title on US soil. Third-seeded Novak Djokovic took almost four hours to defeat the 19-year-old Croatian Marin Cilic.

Four-time defending champion Roger Federer cruised into the fourth round of the US Open on Sunday while Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic struggled to send off a stubborn teen challenger.

Twelve-time Grand Slam champion Federer won his 30th consecutive US Open match, defeating Czech Radek Stepanek 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 to book a date with Russian Igor Andreev, who eliminated Spanish 13th seed Fernando Verdasco 6-2, 6-4, 6-4.

"It's good for me to not waste any energy, play well and move on," Federer said. "What counts is winning the tournament. You forget who you beat, how you won. I don't try to impress anybody in the early rounds. If it happens, great."

Third-seeded Serbian Djokovic subdued 19-year-old Croatian Marin Cilic 6-7 (7/9), 7-5, 6-4, 7-6 (7/0) after three hours and 52 minutes. Cilic had won his first ATP title only one week ago at New Haven.

"I was really trying to stay in the match all the time," Djokovic said. "It is always good to have in the early stages the long matches, to hustle and stay on the court a long time. Now I'm motivated to go far.

"I always manage to get through these tough matches. If you are mentally able to play the best tennis in the most important moments you are different than the others."

Olympic bronze medallist Djokovic booked a fourth-round date with Spanish 15th seed Tommy Robredo, who defeated France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6 (7/2), 6-2, 6-3. Djokovic is 3-1 against Robredo.

"Another tough opponent. If I'm fresh enough mentally and physically I think I can get a positive outcome," Djokovic said.

"I can expect a big fight. He's confident. The good thing about Grand Slams is you have a day off. You can recover. I'm sure I'll be recovered enough."

Djokovic, last year's US Open runner-up, squandered a set point in the opening stanza and Cilic made him pay dearly with a backhand winner to capture the tie-breaker after 66 minutes.

Djokovic broke to begin the second set but the Croatian broke back to 5-5 when the Serbian shotmaker slashed a forehand volley wide. Djokovic broke again and took the second set but Cilic forced impressive rallies.

"The good thing about that second set was that I stayed focused," Djokovic said. "He didn't have much to lose as a youngster. He was stepping in and I was playing a bit too defensive."

Cilic dropped the last four points in the seventh game of the final set to surrender to break and a 4-3 edge but Djokovic blew two match points in the 10th game and gave back a break, allowing Cilic to reach a tie-breaker.

But Djokovic dominated the decider, using a pair of early winners to seize control for good.

"It was more the fight and focus I had in the end," Djokovic said. "I got myself together after those two match points. I was mentally strong. For me this match is extremely important mentally for me to continue going on."

Federer lost to top-ranked Rafael Nadal in the Wimbledon and French Open finals and was dethroned from the rankings summit by the Spaniard two weeks ago after a record 237-week reign.

But the Swiss superstar responded Sunday with a powerful performance to subdue Stepanek.

"I returned well, didn't allow him to have many options," Federer said. "I was good off the baseline. I moved well and hit some great shots when I needed them. I've been serving well for the first three rounds. That's a good sign."

Russian fifth seed Nikolay Davydenko, who lost to Federer in the US Open semi-finals each of the past two years, defeated 27th-ranked compatriot Dmitry Tursunov 6-2, 7-6 (7/3), 6-3.

Davydenko next faces Luxembourg qualifier Gilles Muller, who outlasted Spain's Nicolas Almagro 6-7 (3/7), 3-6, 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (8/6), 7-5.

Since winning his 14th career title in June at Warsaw, Davydenko had lost four of six matches before the Open. But he has found top form again and could face the Federer express again in this year's quarter-finals.

"I'm not top fit but I need to do everything to be top fit, fight every point," Davydenko said. "I'm really happy to win three rounds in three sets."

Also advancing to the last 16 was US eighth seed Andy Roddick, who defeated Italy's Andreas Steppi 6-2, 7-5, 7-6 (7/4).

"I was moving OK. I served well," Roddick said. "I can hit the ball more solid at times but I fought back really well. Now it's a matter of geting back into match shape and getting ready for the fourth round."

Next up for the 2003 US Open champion will be Chilean 11th seed Fernando Gonzalez, who eliminated Finland's Jarkko Nieminen 7-5, 6-4 6-7 (3/7), 6-1.

Date created : 2008-09-01

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