World No. 2 Roger Federer turned a purple patch into a rout on Thursday, defeating the man who knocked him out of the same Masters-Rome last year, in the end rolling past nemesis Radek “The Worm” Stepanek 6-4, 6-1.
Federer failed to serve out the match at 5-3, but broke Stepanek in the next game. Stepanek had a break point in the first game on the Swiss serve, but the wheels came off when he failed to convert and Federer upped his level, racing to a 5-0 lead before closing out the match.
“This year was very different,” Federer said. “I could read his first serve. His second serve was not a problem either. I didn’t have a problem even to attack his second serve, whereas last year I was just trying to get the ball into play, and then obviously he was able to mix it up and make me doubt much more.”
No. 3 seed Novak Djokovic also moved into the quarterfinals in impressive fashion, laying a beating on Spanish claycourt specialist Tommy Robredo 6-1, 6-1.
“I was in control of the match,” said Djokovic. “I think I played quite patient, but then when I needed to step it up I did. It was quite strange because Tommy was making a lot of unforced errors, so he didn’t put a lot of pressure on me.”
No. 12 seed Fernando “Gonzo” Gonzalez impressively broke his racquet in half over his knee in the first set before overcoming unseeded Austrian Jurgen “Tuna” Melzer 3-6, 6-3, 7-5.
Also into the Friday quarterfinals were top-seeded Rafael Nadal who steamrolled Swede Robin Soderling 6-1, 6-0; No. 5 Juan Martin Del Potro outlasting No. 10 Stan Wawrinka 6-3 in the third; No. 6 Fernando “Hot Sauce” Verdasco dousing Richard Gasquet in straights; and two qualifiers into the quarters, with Mischa Zverev of Germany surprising No. 8 Gilles Simon, and Juan Monaco continuing his run with a straight-set win over No. 15 Marin Cilic.
“I think the match was really tough,” said Nadal, who fought off five break chances in the first set. “Not the result, but, yes, the match. The beginning I was winning 4-1, but at the same time I can be losing 4-1.”
Friday’s match-ups will be Djokovic vs. Del Potro, Federer vs. Zverev, Nadal vs. Verdasco in an all-Spanish, and Gonzalez vs. Monaco.
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