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Came, saw, conquerered: Gulbis slays Federer in Rome

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Originally published on: 27/04/10 18:30

Roger Federer’s clay court season is off to the worst possible start after the world No.1 was stunned by a 2-6 6-1 7-5 defeat to Ernests Gulbis at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome in a match that was turned on its head in the second set.

After totally dominating in the opener, Federer was forced onto the back foot in the second set by the Latvian who stepped up the court and attacked the Swiss relentlessly, finding joy against Federer’s faltering serve to race away with the second.

The precocious youngster carried that form into the final set and broke for a 3-2 lead. He then squandered six match points to hand the initiative back to Federer as nerves threatened to get the better of him with the victory in his grasp.

But after being broken when serving for the match at 5-4 – having held match points on Federer’s serve a game earlier – he broke straight back before serving the match out to love.

Federer had taken a short break from the tour following his early exit from the Sony Ericsson Open, skipping the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters where Nadal clinched his first title in nearly a year in some style.

There were many hoping that Federer and Nadal – seeded No.3 in Rome in accordance with the ATP rankings – might meet for the first time almost as long in the semi-finals after being drawn in the same half, but that showdown will have to wait for another day.

Earlier in the day, Novak Djokovic booked his third round spot with ease, crushing Jeremy Chardy 6-1 6-1, but No.16 seed Juan Monaco was sent packing by Victor Hanescu follwing a 7-6(4) 6-4 defeat.

In the rest of the first round action, Lleyton Hewitt dug deep in vintage fashion to see off No.9 seed Mikhail Youzhny 6-4 4-6 6-3. Viktor Troicki progressed following teenager Thiemo de Bakker’s withdrawal with the Serb leading 3-6 6-1 1-0 at the time.

Spaniards Nicolas Almagro and Feliciano Lopez also booked their spot in the second round, as did Italian Simone Bolleli and Stanislas Wawrinka, a convincing 6-1 6-2 victor over Jurgen Melzer.

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