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Verdasco Shines Through Rain

Monte-Carlo, Monaco

Fernando Verdasco In Action© Getty ImagesFernando Verdasco In Action

The Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters was blighted by rain on Thursday. However, two quarter-finals were set-up at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tennis tournament between third seed Novak Djokovic and seventh seed Fernando Verdasco, and 13th seed Stanislas Wawrinka and qualifier Andreas Beck.

Djokovic weathered a storm on Court 2, the only covered court at the Monte-Carlo Country Club, battling rain and high winds to defeat Albert Montanes of Spain 6-1, 6-7(4), 6-0 in one hour and 45 minutes.

World No. 3 Djokovic served for a place in the last eight at 5-4 in the second set and was forced to wait a further 23 minutes before clinching his 24th win of the 2009 ATP World Tour season. The 21-year-old Serbian converted seven of 17 break point opportunities and won 52 per cent of points on return of serve.

Last week’s Casablanca semi-finalist Montanes dropped to 8-11 on the year, while Djokovic now attempts to reach his fifth ATP World Tour semi-final (or better) against Verdasco on Friday. The pair has met on four occasions (2-2).

Verdasco made light of a five-hour rain delay to his third-round clash against 10th seed David Ferrer on Thursday, by beating his Spanish Davis Cup team mate 6-2, 6-1 in just 63 minutes.

Originally scheduled to start at 10:30 a.m. on Court Central, the pair was made to wait until 3:37 p.m. until they began their eighth career meeting that tournament organisers switched to Court 2. The match was interrupted by rain after 41 minutes of play at 3:17 p.m., but resumed after 23 minutes.

“With David, you never expect an easy win,” explained Verdasco. “I woke up at 7:30 a.m., and we went to the court at 3:30 in the afternoon. It was tough conditions. [It] is hard to prepare one match like this because you never know when you are going to play.”

World No. 8 Verdasco dominated throughout and secured six breaks of serve to record his 17th win of the 2009 ATP World Tour season (17-4). This year he has reached the Brisbane final (l. to Stepanek) and Australian Open semi-finals (l. to Nadal).

“At the beginning of the match, the first game and a half with 1-0 down and 0-30,” said Verdasco. “I didn't play so good. I made mistakes. I was a little bit slow in my movements. But after 2-2 in the first set when I broke him, I started to feel much better. I think that was the key a little bit because he was not able to go into the court and to be aggressive like he likes to play.”

Ferrer, who had reached the Monte-Carlo quarter-finals the past four years, dropped to 21-36 lifetime against Top 10 opponents and 19-8 on the season.

Meanwhile fourth-seeded Scot Andy Murray will resume his third-round encounter with Italian qualifier and World No. 109 Fabio Fognini. Both are former rivals on the junior circuit.

Murray saved three set points in first-set tie-break, before clinching the opening set 7-6(11) on his fourth set point. The 21-year-old World No. 4 has captured the opening game in the second set on Court des Princes when torrential rain and high winds ended all hope of completing their match. The pair resume on the same court at 10:30 a.m. local time Friday.

Four-time defending champion Rafael Nadal will also resume his third-round match against Nicolas Lapentti on Court Central at 10:30 a.m. Lapentti, who is trying to become only the second player to beat Nadal twice on clay in his career, had won the first game after four minutes played. Lapentti defeated Nadal on clay in the quarter-finals of Bastad in July 2003.

Wawrinka Stuns Federer To Reach Quarter-final

Stanislas Wawrinka stole the headlines from his Swiss compatriot and World No. 2 Roger Federer in a rain-interrupted third-round match at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters on Thursday, when the 13th seed beat his Beijing Olympics gold medal-winning doubles partner 6-4, 7-5 for the first time in his career.

Wawrinka recorded one of the biggest wins of his career at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament in one hour and 50 minutes on his favourite surface, dominating three-time runner-up Federer with potent groundstrokes and well-timed net approaches on a damp day at the Monte-Carlo Country Club. While Federer saved 11 of 14 break points, he could only win 35 per cent of points on return of serve.

“I did a great match, but [it] is always difficult to play against a good friend,” said Wawrinka. “You're always different on court. But today I think I was playing better. He came only two days before the tournament, so it's not easy to play great on clay courts.  So I think it was the difference.

“It’s had many opportunities and I won in two sets. Both of us were very tentative today and there were ups and downs in the match. I believe he hasn't found his rhythm on clay and he made many errors. I was very happy because I think I played my best match physically.”

World No. 16 Wawrinka failed to convert two break points in the opening game, missing one glorious chance to make an immediate impact by hitting a smash into the net. At 3-3, Federer uncharacteristically missed four forehands that gave Wawrinka his first service break. At 5-3, both players were forced to rush to the locker room when a rain shower interrupted Wawrinka’s momentum for 22 minutes. Wawrinka returned to close out the first set in 42 minutes in the pair’s first meeting since February 2006 at Dubai.

The Swiss exchanged service breaks at the start of the second set, which looked set to be decided on a tie-break when Federer fell to 0-30 as the rain clouds gathered again. Federer clawed back two break points, but on the third a forehand approach was declared wide. Wawrinka had the decisive break, and despite a mid-game wobble the former World No. 9 (9 June 2008) clinched his 10th win of the 2009 ATP World Tour season with a backhand winner down the line. It was also only his 10th win over a Top 10 opponent (10-23 lifetime).

“I thought I had decent timing on my backhand,” explained Federer. “I was playing it okay, trying to mix it up as well. But my forehand was hurting me in the beginning. I was making a few too many errors.  That kind of gave him the advantage. I thought Stan played well.

“I'm happy for him that he's progressed so much over the last couple years. He's finally making a push, getting close to top players and beating top players like myself. I think it's great for him. The beginning of the clay court season, he's already playing really well. That's stuff he couldn't really do three seasons going because he got injured or he had tough draws or he played one horrible match which took away this is confidence.

“And this year and last year I think it's all sort of coming together for him. I'm happy for him.”

Federer, who had lost to Rafael Nadal in the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters the past three years, dropped to 21-9 at the clay-court tournament and 187-58 lifetime at ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tennis tournaments since making his debut at Miami in 1999. The 27 year old is 18-5 on the 2009 ATP World Tour season, which includes losing in the Australian Open final to Nadal in January.

On Saturday, Federer married his long-time girlfriend Mirka Vavrinec in a private ceremony in his hometown of Basel, Switzerland. The couple met at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.

The 24-year-old Wawrinka, a St. Barthelemy resident, goes on to meet the unheralded qualifier Andreas Beck of Germany, who fought back from a 2-4 deficit in the third set to beat No. 60-ranked Juan Monaco of Argentina 3-6, 6-2, 7-5 in two hours and seven minutes on the covered Court 9.

World No. 89 Beck converted six of nine break point opportunities – one more than his opponent – for his fifth tour-level win of the year. Monaco, who reached the Buenos Aires final (l. to Robredo) and the Vina del Mar quarter-finals (l. to Gonzalez) in February, dropped to 11-8 on the 2009 ATP World Tour season.

Today was the first time since the 2006 championships that the start of play at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 clay-court tennis tournament was delayed due to rain.

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