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Federer, Murray advance

3/17/2009 - Tennis

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- Roger Federer and Andy Murray each took a step closer to a possible showdown in the semifinals with relatively routine victories during third-round matches Monday at the BNP Paribas Open.

Federer, a three-time Indian Wells winner ranked No. 2 and trying for another shot against No. 1 Rafael Nadal in the title match, downed Ivo Karlovic 7-6(4), 6-3.

Playing his first event since withdrawing from the Dubai tournament and the first round of Davis Cup because of back problems, Federer came up with big shots when needed against Karlovic.

Federer said afterward that he wasn't sure if his game is coming together.

"It's tough to say. I don't think I've had an awful lot of rhythm in my last two matches. Even in my first match, there was quite a bit of serving going on," Federer said.

"I don't think I've had to face break point yet in the first two matches, so that's a good thing. That kind of keeps you a bit relaxed. I'm seeing the ball OK. My baseline game, I can't really judge it."

Down 3-1 in the tiebreaker, the Swiss star evened it with points on a volley past Karlovic, then a low, hard forehand that the Croatian couldn't handle. Karlovic, ranked No. 28, then made a series of unforced errors, including hitting a forehand long for the final point of the tiebreaker.

Federer, who had said he was rusty coming into Indian Wells, looked considerably sharper in the second set, reeling off the hard, accurate groundstrokes that made him the world's top player for so long.

The 21-year-old Murray, a Scot ranked No. 4 and off to a 17-1 start this season, overpowered Paul-Henri Mathieu 6-3, 6-2. Murray served six aces, won 21 of 25 first-serve points and jumped on his French opponent's second serve to take 17 of 24 points.

"I served big when I needed to and moved very well again," Murray said. "Bar a couple of games where I lost my concentration a little bit, it was a very solid match."

Asked whether he believes Federer can climb back to No. 1, Murray said, "Yeah, no question he can. I just don't think he's going to be dominating the sport like he did when he clearly was No. 1 by a long way. I think he's going to lose more matches than he did before just because the standard of tennis has gotten better.

"And the reason tennis has gotten better is thanks to him setting the bar so high. Guys have tried to reach his level and a few of us have."

No. 17 Fernando Gonzalez of Chile made quick work of James Blake, needing only an hour and five minutes to beat the American 7-5, 6-1. No. 13 Blake made 35 unforced errors, 11 more than Gonzalez.

Blake, who won his first three meetings with Gonzalez, now has lost seven in a row against him. But Blake said the latest defeat was "just a bad day."

"He played well; I played badly. Just one of those, relatively simple," he said. "It hurts. It makes me want to get back on the practice court."

Defending champion Ana Ivanovic, also last year's French Open winner who spent some three months atop the rankings, defeated Gisela Dulko 6-3, 6-3 in their third-round match.

Daniela Hantuchova, the 2002 and 2007 champion, also advanced, outlasting Petra Cetkovska 7-5, 7-5 in their night match.