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Federer stutters past inspired Ferrero

ESPN staff
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Roger Federer has never won the Internazionali BNL d'Italia title © Getty Images
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Roger Federer bounced back from a second-set wobble to sneak past Juan Carlos Ferrero in the third round of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome.

Federer, who was the last man standing at the Madrid Open last week, took one hour 47 minutes to record a 6-2 5-7 6-1 success against Ferrero, a former world No. 1.

He is now one step closer to a first Rome title - but a slump in the second frame, when he looked fatigued and a host of errors crept in, will be of some concern.

Ferrero held his own in the first set until the sixth game, when Federer converted his third break point with a brilliant cross-court forehand winner that just clipped the line. Federer had taken a few games to feel his opponent out, but once he had sussed the Spaniard's strategy, it was one-way traffic - and Ferrero did not seem to have the variety in his locker to pose a different sort of problem. The Swiss maestro took the opening set with a breathtaking backhand that gave him a second break.

Ferrero found his feet again early in the second, trying to play with more aggression in a bid to disrupt his opponent, who was apparently riding a smooth wave to victory. To Ferrero's credit, it seemed to work, as Federer lost a lot of his sharpness, coughing up an uncharacteristic string of unforced errors in the midsection of the second frame to leave the score tied at 4-4 - and the momentum shifting towards Ferrero.

There was nothing between the players in the ninth game, with Federer eventually managing to scrape his way through a nervy service game, but Ferrero got the reward his resurgence merited in the 11th, breaking to move 6-5 up. Ferrero subsequently slipped 0-30 behind, yet showed his resilience to come back and level at one set each.

Federer smoothed off his jagged edges early in the third stanza, grabbing a break in the second game to re-assert his authority, and take some of the steam out of Ferrero's surge. A second break in the sixth game decisively flattened Ferrero, and allowed the world No. 2 - eventually - find his way through to the next round.

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