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Federer Makes Statement In Rome Opener; Youzhny Tops Haas

Rome, Italy

FedererAFP/Getty ImagesRoger Federer is bidding to win the Rome title for the first time.

Practice makes perfect. That’s what Roger Federer said after his third-round defeat to Kei Nishikori at last week’s Mutua Madrid Open. The Swiss’ words rang true on Tuesday evening at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia as he blasted aside Italian wild card Potito Starace 6-1, 6-2 in just 51 minutes.

"It was a great first round, particularly against a local hero here," said Federer. "I came out and was able to play my game and dictate at almost every point. That was a nice feeling to have. It was a very clean match, it was good from start to finish. I felt good, I moved well. Overall a great performance. I hope I can keep it up."

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The 31-year-old Federer is attempting to win the elusive Rome title for the first time in 13 visits. Should he do so, he will be just three wins away from recording his 900th career victory, something only three other players have achieved: Jimmy Connors (1243), Ivan Lendl (1071) and Guillermo Vilas (924).

In beating the No. 293-ranked Starace for the seventh time in seven meetings, Federer lost only seven points on serve and broke the Italian four times. He goes on to face Gilles Simon or Mikhail Youzhny.

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Youzhny had earlier caused an upset in his first-round match. The World No. 30 beat the oldest player in the Top 50 of the Emirates ATP Rankings, 35-year-old Tommy Haas, the No. 13 seed and 2002 runner-up (l. to Agassi), 6-4, 6-3 in 82 minutes. Youzhny won their only previous clay meeting at the 2002 BMW Open in Munich. 

Youzhny will next play Simon, who defeated Italian wild card Filippo Volandri 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 in just over two hours. Youzhny has a 7-2 FedEx ATP Head2Head record over Simon, who has compiled a 21-12 match record in 2013, highlighted by three ATP World Tour semi-finals.

Madrid natives Fernando Verdasco and Feliciano Lopez endured mixed first-round fortunes. Former World No. 7 Verdasco, a semi-finalist in Rome three years ago (l. to Ferrer), battled past this year’s Vina del Mar champion, Horacio Zeballos, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, while Lopez was edged out by France’s Jeremy Chardy 3-6, 7-5, 7-6(4) in two hours and 32 minutes.

World No. 32 Julien Benneteau snapped a six-match losing streak in style, upsetting 12th seeded Spaniard Nicolas Almagro 7-6(2), 6-4. The Frenchman, who had suffered five first-round defeats since reaching the Marseille second round in February, withstood 12 aces and broke serve twice to prevail in 84 minutes.

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