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Federer stays in the hunt

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Originally published on: 26/02/10 12:09

Federer was shocked by French world number nine Gilles Simon in Monday’s red group opener, but remained in the hunt for a fifth Masters Cup triumph after downing late replacement Stepanek in one hour and 41 minutes.

Andy Murray earlier beat Simon 6-4 6-2 to secure his place in the semi-finals, with US Open champion Federer set to face the British number one on Friday needing a win to advance at the top of the group ahead of the world number four.

Stepanek had only found out earlier on Wednesday he would be playing the world number two after American Andy Roddick was forced to pull out due to an ankle injury.

He turned up at the stadium without a racquet, had to borrow socks from Murray and did not have his contact lenses, and the writing looked on the wall after only two minutes as Stepanek double-faulted at 15-40 in the first game.

But Federer failed to take advantage as the Czech broke back to level at 2-2.

In the tie-break, Federer claimed back-to-back mini-breaks to take a 4-1 lead, and despite Stepanek pulling back one, the 13-time grand slam winner served out to take the first set.

The second set also looked destined for a tie-break until Federer broke in the eighth game to take a 5-3 lead and serve for the match.

Stepanek was able to produce a break of his own, but Federer raced into a 0-40 lead at 5-4 and secured the win as the Czech again double-faulted with the pressure on.

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