Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic overcame a one-set deficit to secure passage to the fourth round of the US Open. Federer battled past Lleyton Hewitt (4-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4), while Djokovic edged US wildcard Jesse Witten (6-7, 6-3, 7-6, 6-4).
AFP - Both Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic were forced to dig deep after first-set losses in the fourth round of the US Open on Saturday as the action started to heat up in the men's singles.
While defending champion and top seed Federer made it 14 in a row over former world No.1 Lleyton Hewitt with a 4-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 win, fourth-seeded Djokovic struggled to see off the challenge of US wildcard Jesse Witten 6-7 (2/7), 6-3, 7-6 (7/2), 6-4.
Also through early on into the fourth round from the top half of the draw was wily Czech Radek Stepanek, who defeated Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-3, and Russian livewire Nikolay Davydenko, who cruised past Switzerland's Marco Chiudinelli 6-4, 7-5, 7-5.
The travails of Federer and Djokovic signalled a tightening of the competition following five days of play in which seeds totally dominated to the extent that the top 16 all reached the third round - the first time this had happened in a Grand Slam tournament in the 41-year Open era.
Federer, seeking a sixth straight US title to match the 84-year-old record of Bill Tilden, was uncustomarily out first under the midday sun at the Arthur Ashe Stadium court and he was uncustomarily sluggish and careless.
In contrast, Hewitt, the champion here in 2001 who is clawing his way back up the rankings after falling out of the top 100 in February, looked much the livlier and more enterprising.
The Australian broke Federer twice to win the first set and had several break points in the third after the Swiss star had levelled the set scores.
But he failed to take them and Federer gradually worked his way back to near his very best, taking the third set and then breaking at start of the fourth.
A consummate front-runner, Federer raced away to clinch his 38th straight win at the US Open, including one walkover, since he lost to David Nalbandian in the fourth round in 2003.
The win, which assures Federer of retaining the world No 1 status no matter who wins the title here, means he will play either American James Blake or Tommy Robredo of Spain for a place in the quarter-finals.
"It was close and it could have gone either way," Federer said.
"He had a good start and he believed maybe more today than in some of the other ones he played against me.
"Being a set down against Lleyton I knew it was going to be difficult for me -- maybe needing to go to a fifth set or even going down."
Hewitt, the champion here in 2001, paid tribute to Federer saying, "He is good as there is.
"At one-set all, I had break points to go ahead in the third set and he came up with big serves at the right time and that is why he is the number one in the world."
Djokovic, the 2008 Australian Open champion and 2007 US Open runner-up, took three hours and 28 minutes to subdue Witten, the longest long-shot still in the field at 276th in the world.
"Looking at that match, I don't know who was No. 4 in the world," Djokovic said. "It was a tough win. For either one it would have been well deserved."
Djokovic will play for a quarter-final berth against Stepanek.
Witten, a Challenger circuit regular one step below the ATP, had never won a top-level match until this week and was just happy to get past qualifying after 10 failures in 11 prior Slam tries and a first-round US Open exit in 2006.
"I'm just happy to be playing," Witten said. "I'm going to keep trying. I'll play a few more weeks and see what happens."
Among those scheduled for later Saturday were US No.5 seed Andy Roddick against giant compatriot John Isner and 10th seed Spaniard Fernando Verdasco against German veteran Tommy Haas.
Date created : 2009-09-05