Federer rallies to beat Roddick; Ljubicic comes back against Nalbandian

Tuesday, November 14th 2006, 8:41 am

By: News On 6

SHANGHAI, China (AP) _ Roger Federer saved three match points in a second-set tiebreaker before defeating Andy Roddick 4-6, 7-6 (8), 6-4 Tuesday at the Tennis Masters Cup.

Top-ranked Federer extended his winning stretch in round-robin matches at the season-ending championship to 14 and his streak against Roddick to eight.

David Nalbandian, who beat Federer in last year's final, was two points from a win in the later match before No. 4-ranked Ivan Ljubicic rallied for a 5-7, 7-6 (7), 7-5 victory.

Nalbandian is now 0-2 _ he lost to Federer on Sunday _ and has to play Roddick in his last round-robin match.

Roddick said he felt like the better player for the first two sets against Federer and was unlucky not to win.

``I'm definitely going to take away a little bit more of a sense of belief from today,'' said Roddick, who is 1-12 against Federer. ``I'm getting closer as opposed to further away, so that's a trend I hope to continue.''

He thinks the pain of a narrow loss will help break the drought against Federer. He has not beaten the Swiss star since the semifinals of the Masters event in Montreal in 2003.

``If I don't believe now, then I never will,'' Roddick said. ``I put myself in a position to win tonight.''

Roddick won the first set after breaking in the third game on Federer's double-fault.

In the second, Roddick saved three set points in the 10th game and had match points at 6-4 in the tiebreaker before his serve let him down for the first important time.

Federer jumped on the second serve, trying a passing shot on the backhand side before putting away a forehand winner as Roddick attacked the net.

Federer won the next three points and then lost two to give Roddick another match point, needing a service winner to save.

On Federer's second set point, Roddick leaped high for an overhead and smashed it long.

Despite a winning first serve percentage in the mid-80s in the first two sets, Roddick said it was only one serve that would be replayed in his mind over again.

``One of the only things I probably would have changed about that point at 6-4 is putting a first serve in,'' he said. ``This won't be the last time today I think about that.''

Federer agreed that was the turning point.

``I think he played the perfect match for two sets _ maybe one serve lacked in the end, so it was unfortunate for him,'' he said.

Federer controlled the third set, breaking Roddick's serve in the third game and closing out with three aces in the last game, including one down the middle on his second match point.

``Obviously it's hard to control against Andy when he's serving so big like in the first two sets,'' he said. ``I know I got a bit lucky in the end.''

Federer would have secured a semifinal place if Nalbandian had beaten Ljubicic.

That loomed as a strong chance with Nalbandian serving at 5-4 and 30-30 in the second.

Nalbandian lost the next two points and then went down in a tiebreaker. The third went on serve until Ljubicic broke in the 11th game.

Ljubicic served out at love, meaning all four players in the Red Group have a chance of making the semifinals.

In doubles matches Tuesday, top-ranked Bob and Mike Bryan defeated Martin Damm and Leander Paes. 6-2, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (5). Paul Hanley and Kevin Ullyett qualified for the semifinals by beating Israeli pair Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram 6-4, 6-4.

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