Federer struggles past Kuwaiti to reach Dubai quarters
DUBAI, March 1 (Reuters) A passive Roger Federer struggled to defeat Kuwait's Mohammed Al Ghareeb 7-6 6-4 at the Dubai Open today.
Marat Safin failed to follow up his first round victory over world number five Nikolay Davydenko, losing 7-6 6-4 to Belgian Olivier Rochus in his first tournament for six months.
Serving well, Al Ghareeb - ranked 488 in the world - showed no sign of nerves in the biggest match of his career and after breaking to lead 3-2, he consolidated his advantage by firing four aces past the world number one.
The Kuwaiti fought off four break points to lead 5-3 and came within two points of claiming the set before Federer edged the tiebreak 7-5.
The Swiss also found it difficult to take control of the second set before Al Ghareeb, 25, double-faulted to give Federer a 4-3 lead on his eighth break point of the set.
''I was hoping it was going to be easier, obviously, but he played well. He definitely served well, and I was playing quite passive,'' Federer said after reaching the quarter-finals.
''One I got tied up in that passive play I couldn't really play my forehand and it was getting hard. I was lucky I got back in that first set.
''He was the better player but my experience got me through.'' Federer was not too concerned at his below-par performance after his second match since his victory in the Australian Open final.
''It's hard from one month off to come back and play great,'' said Federer. ''I need a few matches and for me it's quite common to struggle in the early rounds.'' Safin's comeback after his six-month injury break ended with an error-filled performance against Rochus.
''It was not enough matches, so many mistakes,'' said the Russian. ''You need to get the rhythm back. It doesn't come straight away.
''It's still a long way and I have many things to work on. I hope it will come back soon.'' REUTERS PDS PM2107