Federer rallies, rough summer improves in Cincy
MASON, Ohio (AP) - Roger Federer's tough summer finally got a warm moment at one of his favorite tournaments.
Federer overcome a rough start at the Western & Southern Open on Thursday and emerged from his string of subpar showings since Wimbledon. He beat Tommy Haas 1-6, 7-5, 6-3 to advance to the quarterfinals.
The fifth-seeded Swiss star has been struggling to get his game back in shape since he was upset at Wimbledon by a player ranked 116th in the world. He's switched rackets and been limited by a sore back.
He's won in Cincinnati an unprecedented five times, including last year.
Also Thursday, No. 1 Novak Djokovic needed only 50 minutes to beat qualifier David Goffin, 6-2, 6-0, leaving him on track for a little ATP history. He's lost in the finals four times at Cincinnati, the only Masters series event he has yet to win.
A victory would make him the first player to win all nine Masters.
"I played four times finals, so it's been one of the tournaments where I've performed well,'' Djokovic said. "Never managed to make the final step, and hopefully this year I can do so.
"I have an extra motivation and an opportunity to make history in this tournament, so I'm very inspired to play well day after day.''
It appeared Federer wasn't long for the tournament after a stunningly bad start against Haas. The 35-year-old Haas needed only 31 minutes to win the first set and was up 4-2 in the second before Federer started to approach the net, hitting shots with confidence and taking control.
He pumped his right fist after a backhand return hugged the line to set up a break point that put him up 5-3 in the final set, and again when he finished it off - one of his few satisfying moments in months.
Earlier Thursday, seventh-seeded Juan Martin del Potro earned a berth in the quarterfinals, holding off 27th-ranked Spaniard Feliciano Lopez 6-4, 1-6, 6-4.
Russian qualifier Dmitry Tursunov pulled off another upset, beating third-seeded Spaniard David Ferrer 6-2, 6-4. The 44th-ranked Tursunov never lost his serve while reaching the quarterfinals for the first time in six appearances at the event.
Victoria Azarenka advanced by defeating No. 33 Magdalena Rybarikova 6-3, 6-4.
Serbia's Jelena Jankovic overcame a slow start and beat American Sloane Stephens 3-6, 7-5, 7-5 to reach the semifinals. Stephens struggled with her first serve after winning the first set, allowing Jankovic to rally.
Azarenka withdrew from last week's Rogers Cup in Toronto with a lower back injury. The previous week, she lost to Samantha Stosur in the finals of the Southern California Open.
Azarenka reached the quarterfinals for the first time in three appearances at the event.
Last year, Djokovic lost in the finals to Federer. It was a record fifth win in Cincinnati for the 32-year-old Swiss star, who is hoping to get his game straightened out on the fast, blue center court that has always seemed to favor him.
Federer was beaten in the second round at Wimbledon by Sergiy Stakhovsky, his earliest exit from a Grand Slam event since 2003. That ended Federer's streak of reaching the quarterfinals in 36 straight major tournaments.
The improbable upsets were just starting.
Federer lost to a 114th-ranked qualifier in the semifinals at Hamburg and was beaten by a 55th-ranked player in his opening match at Gstaad, Switzerland. There were reasons that figured in the losses: He was experimenting with a larger racket and his back was bothering him.
He skipped Montreal last week to get ready for Cincinnati, hoping a good showing this week would get him ready for the U.S. Open.
AP freelance writer Mark Schmetzer contributed to this report.
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