US Open – Day 7: Roger Federer Has The Invincibility Factor Again

NEW YORK – If Roger Federer were to increase his Grand Slam tournament singles titles to 13, he will have to come up with the type of game he put on display on Sunday.

That was when the Swiss right-hander easily crushed Radek Stepanek 6-3 6-3 6-2 to advance to the fourth round of the US Open Tennis Championships.

“If I were to win a big tournament, you know, again, one of those Slams, whatever, right away I have the invincibility factor again, which is great for me,” Federer said. “That’s what I’m working for.

“I was that close in Wimbledon, so I hope to go a step further and win it this time.”

Federer has been stuck at 12 major titles since he collected his fourth consecutive US Open crown a year ago. Not only did he not win his third straight Australian Open championship, he failed in a five-set thriller to capture Wimbledon for the fifth straight year.

“I’m playing well and moving on in the draw,” he said. “At the end of the day what counts is winning the tournament. And anyway, you forget who you beat, how you won. You forget all the unforced errors you made, and all anybody’s going to talk about is the finals.”

There was one surprise in the men’s singles in the afternoon matches Sunday. Qualifier Gilles Muller of Luxembourg knocked off 18th-seeded Nicolas Almagro of Spain 6-7 (3) 3-6 7-6 (5) 7-6 (6) 7-5 in a battle that last six minutes under four hours.

“I got only one break in the whole match,” said Muller, who is in the round of 16 at a Grand Slam tournament for the first time in his career. Muller is playing in his first major tournament since the 2007 Wimbledon, having failed to qualify for last year’s US Open and this year’s Australian Open and Wimbledon.

Other early finishers to reach the fourth round were Andy Roddick, a 6-2, 7-5 7-6 (4) winner over Italy’s Andreas Seppi; fifth-seeded Nikolay Davydenko, who beat fellow Russian Dmitry Tursunov 6-2 7-6 (3) 6-3; and Igor Andreev of Russia, a 6-2 6-4 6-4 winner over 13th-seeded Fernando Verdasco of Spain.

Second-seeded Jelena Jankovic, with the loss of top-ranked Ana Ivanovic the top seed left in the women’s field, grabbed a spot in the quarterfinals by beating Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark 3-6 6-2 6-1. Jankovic’s next opponent will be Sybille Bammer of Austria, who eliminated 12th-seeded Marion Bartoli of France 7-6 (3) 0-6 6-4.

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It has been a horrendous year for Federer, although almost every other player except top-seeded Rafael Nadal would love to be able to have his record. Federer lost to Nadal in the final at Roland Garros and Wimbledon, and fell in the semifinals of the Australian Open to eventual winner Novak Djokovic.

After four years as the world’s top-ranked player, Federer has ceded that distinction to Nadal and is seeded second here on the hard courts of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

“I think I returned well, especially in the second serve,” Federer said. “I was good off the baseline. I think I moved well today and really hit some great shots when I needed them. I think all in all I’m really happy.”

Which should make the rest of the field more than a little sad.

In order to get to the final, however, Federer may have to face either Djokovic, last year’s finalist here, or 2003 champion Roddick. In fact, Roddick was the last winner of the US Open not named Roger Federer.

“I’m very proud and happy about my run at the majors, and it’s always nice to be a part of the final group, either the final four or the final two,” Federer said. “I feel like it could happen here again.”

Muller has had a few good wins in his career, but has been unable to string together several in a row.

“I guess everything is in the head. Everything is confidence,” Muller said. “I guess I lost a lot of it through the last two, three years, because I was playing pretty good in ’05 when I beat Nadal and then Andy here in the US Open.

“But then I had a tough time after that. … I started to play challengers again and I was losing matches there. I lost a lot of confidence. There were even moments where I thought, `Should I still keep playing?’

“It was a rough time, but I’m glad I didn’t stop.”