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Ferrer, Roddick Lead Masters Cup Hopes Into 3rd Rd.

Tokyo, Japan

David FerrerAFP/Getty ImagesDavid Ferrer In Action

Defending champion David Ferrer (pictured) and No. 2 seed Andy Roddick, both in the Top 10 of the ATP 2008 Race, joined fellow Tennis Masters Cup contenders Juan Martin del Potro (No. 10), Fernando Gonzalez (No. 11), Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (No. 15), Tommy Robredo (No. 18) and Richard Gasquet (No. 22) in the AIG Japan Open Tennis Championships third round in Tokyo on Wednesday.

Top seed Ferrer bounced back from last week's opening loss in Beijing, beginning his title defense with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-1 win over American Jesse Levine. After the 101st-ranked Levine secured the only break of serve in the second set to level the match, World No. 5 Ferrer pulled away in the third as he converted on two of his three break point chances and dropped just five points on serve.

Ferrer's early exit last week allowed Beijing champion Roddick to overtake the No. 6 position in the ATP 2008 Race, but the Spaniard could reclaim the spot with the title this week. The Valencia resident will next compete against Japanese wild card Takao Suzuki in the third round, after the World No. 593 defeated No. 15 seed Simone Bolelli of Italy 7-6(5), 4-6, 7-6(5). Suzuki has won consecutive ATP matches for the first time since October 2006 at Tokyo, where he reached the quarterfinals (l. to Federer).

Later in the day Suzuki was joined in the third round by compatriot Kei Nishikori, who captured his maiden ATP title at Delray Beach (d. Blake) in February. It represents the first time since 1980 (Kamiwazumi, Fukui) that two Japanese players have reached the last 16. World No. 84 Nishikori converted three of 16 break point opportunities to beat No. 16 seed Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain 6-4, 6-4 in one hour and 53 minutes. The first game lasted 22 minutes. Based in Florida, Nishikori improved to 14-10 this season.

Nishikori will now meet fourth seed Gasquet, who lost to Ferrer in last year’s final. The Frenchman enjoyed a comfortable 6-4, 6-2 victory over Austrian qualifier Martin Slanar in 84 minutes to help his chances of improving his current position of No. 22 in the ATP 2008 Race. He improved to 28-19 on the season (15-11 on hard courts).

Second seed Roddick, who captured his 26th ATP title in Beijing (d. Sela) last week, fired 37 aces past Ivo Minar of the Czech Republic in a 7-6(11), 6-7(4), 7-6(2) victory in two hours and 44 minutes. It was the most aces Roddick has hit in a three-set match during his career. Roddick converted two of eight break point opportunities and won 73 of 89 points on first serve. Currently No. 6 in the ATP 2008 Race, Roddick improved to 42-13 on the season that has been highlighted by three titles (also San Jose, Dubai). He goes on to meet No. 14 seed Jurgen Melzer of Austria, who defeated German Simon Stadler 6-2, 6-3 earlier in the day.

Third-seeded Chilean Gonzalez overcame a slow start - winning 13 points in the first set - to beat Yen-Hsun Lu of Chinese Taipei 1-6, 7-5, 6-3 in one hour and 55 minutes. The 28-year-old Gonzalez, a two-time titlist and winner of an Olympic Games silver medal, who is started the week at No. 11 in the ATP 2008 Race, will meet American Amer Delic in the third round. Delic edged past 13th-seeded compatriot Sam Querrey 7-6(5), 6-3.

Fifth-seeded Argentine Juan Martin del Potro hit six aces and won 71 per cent of service points in a 7-5, 6-0 victory over last week's Beijing runner-up Dudi Sela of Israel in 70 minutes. The 20-year-old, who has now won 26 of his last 27 matches that includes four ATP trophies, will next meet No. 11 seed Jarkko Nieminen of Finland, who overcame qualifier Cecil Mamiit 7-6(7), 6-4.

Sixth-seeded Spaniard Robredo cruised past Joseph Sirianni of Australia 6-2, 6-2 for his 34th win of the season. The Bastad champion will next meet No. 9 seed Tomas Berdych for the fifth time, after the Czech knocked out Roko Karanusic of Croatia 6-3, 6-4 at the National Tennis Centre.

Seventh-seeded Frenchman Tsonga, who captured his maiden ATP title in Bangkok (d. Djokovic) last week, overcame American Bobby Reynolds 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-4 for a place in the third round. Tsonga improved to 24-9 this year and will next meet Washington finalist Viktor Troicki, a 6-2, 6-1 winner over American Wayne Odesnik in 62 minutes.

 

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