Federer advances at Dubai; Nadal ousted

Updated: March 1, 2007, 7:01 PM ET
Associated Press

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Roger Federer is troubled with his strokes, finding flaws in a game some consider peerless. Now he hopes a tougher opponent will raise the level of his tennis.

Roger Federer
AP Photo/Kamran JebreiliRoger Federer notched his 39th straight win -- the fifth-longest streak of the Open era.
The world's No. 1 player defeated Serbian teenager Novak Djokovic 6-3, 6-7 (6), 6-3 Thursday to reach the Dubai Open semifinals. Federer's big rival, Rafael Nadal, did not fare as well, losing to Russia's Mikhail Youzhny 7-6 (5), 6-3.

This was the second time in three matches Federer dropped a set. Not a cause for alarm in most players. Then again, this is Federer.

"I definitely think my forehand is not working like the way it usually works," he said. "Some half-court balls, I usually put them away in my sleep. But I can't quite do that here for some reason, so that's a bit of a worry."

Federer also dropped a set to Denmark's Kristian Pless in the first round Monday. On that day he broke Jimmy Connors' record with his 161st consecutive week atop the ATP rankings.

On Thursday, the Swiss star committed 52 unforced errors and needed more than two hours to advance to a semifinal against Germany's Tommy Haas. Federer appeared to have won in straight sets, but Djokovic won a line challenge on match point and prevailed.

Longest Winning Streaks
Open era
Guillermo Vilas
Ivan Lendl
John McEnroe
Bjorn Borg
Roger Federer
* Active streak
"Maybe I should have closed it out earlier and not be in that position," Federer said. "I can see the headlines already, kind of going like 'Oh God, he missed match point with the Hawk-Eye,' and the whole thing. This wasn't exactly our best match, but I think it was more of a battle on the day, kind of who manages to play better. It was me in the end, so I am happy about that."

Federer has beaten the ninth-ranked Haas in seven of their nine meetings. Haas, seeded fifth and a winner last week in Memphis, Tenn., extended his winning streak to 11 matches as he overwhelmed Belgium's Olivier Rochus 6-0, 6-2. Robin Soderling held off 2002 champion Fabrice Santoro to win 6-1, 6-7 (2), 6-0.

"As the opponents get tougher, my game also rises to the occasion," Federer said. "That's what I expect again against Haas. I have played him a few times in my career. The guy, when he is playing well, he can play really, really well. He has definitely been on a roll lately and I am really happy to see him back playing after his two years of injuries."

Youzhny, in beating the second-seeded Nadal, capitalized on an apparent incorrect call by the Hawk-Eye electronic line-judging system. He advanced to the semifinals along with Haas and Soderling.

Complete results
Need the scores from any match played in this or any other tournament? Results
Nadal never seemed to recover after Youzhny won a challenge to reverse an out call and take the first-set tiebreak. The Russian then broke Nadal to open the second.

"I lost the first set in the last point," Nadal said. "I saw and even the referee saw, the ball was outside. There was a mark on the court. The ball was definitely out, but when he challenged, it was in. So it was really unbelievable."

Even Youzhny admitted he was shocked that his challenge was upheld by Hawk-Eye.

"[It] looked like it was a little bit out. I saw the mark was a little out, but it was such an important point, I decided to call for the Hawk-Eye. Even I was shocked it was called in, because, to be honest, I thought it was out."

Haas lost only two points on his serve in the first set and needed just 49 minutes to eliminate Rochus, who upset third-seed Nikolay Davydenko in the second round.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press