INDIAN WELLS, March 17 – Roger Federer was more than a match for the firepower of Ivo Karlovic Monday, beating the towering Croatian in straight sets to reach the fourth round of the Indian Wells hardcourt tennis tournament.
The Swiss world number two, seeded second in the first ATP Masters series of 2009 behind world number one Rafael Nadal, needed only 70 minutes to notch a 7-6 (7/4), 6-3 victory – his seventh over Karlovic in eight career meetings.
The Swiss, who calls Karlovic’s first serve "untouchable," was nonetheless able to withstand 13 aces by the Croatian, breaking him in the seventh game of the second set to avoid another tiebreaker while never facing a break point himself.
"That’s always a good thing," he said of holding serve with ease. "That kind of keeps you a bit relaxed."
Despite his dominant record over Karlovic, Federer said he was always glad to come away with a win against him.
"He’s a tough opponent to play against," Federer said. "I think he’s good for the lower ranked players to play against just because you’ll always have a chance. For the top guys, it’s worse, because it just depends on a few shots."
Federer, who is playing his first tournament since falling to Nadal in the Australian Open final, next faces Chile’s Fernando Gonzalez, who dispatched American James Blake 7-5, 6-1.
The Swiss star said he expects Gonzalez to provide a more searching test of his ground game than he has faced so far.
Federer remained on course for a possible semi-final clash with fourth-seeded Briton Andy Murray, who beat France’s Paul-Henri Mathieu 6-3, 6-2.
Murray, who won two titles this year in Doha and Rotterdam before being slowed by a virus, made short work of Mathieu, who reached the semi-finals at Brisbane in January but has now failed to win back-to-back matches in six tournaments since.
"I hit the ball a lot better than my first match," Murray said. "I served big when I needed to and moved very well again. Bar a couple of games where I lost my concentration a little bit, it was a very solid match."
Murray next faces either Spain’s Tommy Robredo or Marin Cilic of Croatia, both two-time titlists this year.
Croatian veteran Ivan Ljubicic advanced at the expense of eighth-seeded Frenchman Gilles Simon. Ljubicic beat the Australian Open quarter-finalist 6-3, 7-6 (7/3).
On the women’s side, defending champion Ana Ivanovic defeated tenacious Argentinian Gisela Dulko 6-3, 6-3 to reach the fourth round.
Seeded fifth in a draw topped by world number two Dinara Safina, Ivanovic said the good form she has been feeling in practice was beginning to show in matches.
"When it was very close in both sets, I stepped up a little bit more and I just went for my shots and followed my instincts," she said.
"I’m very excited about my game," added the reigning French Open champion, who made a disappointing third-round exit at the Australian Open but last month teamed up with coach Craig Kardon in a bid to get back on track.
"I’ve been practicing the best I’ve been practicing for a long time," she said. "I feel like I have a strategy and a plan in place again."
Ivanovic next faces 12th-seeded Italian Flavia Pennetta, who rallied for a 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory over American qualifier Angela Haynes.
Seventh-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland also advanced with a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Canadian Aleksandra Wozniak.
Russia’s world No. 42 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who ousted second-seeded Jelena Jankovic in the second round, kept her campaign alive with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Italian Karin Knapp.
Czech qualifier Petra Cetkovska, who shocked Olympic champion Elena Dementieva in the second round, was hoping to continue her progress as she took on Daniela Hantuchova, whose Indian Wells resume includes titles in 2002 and 2007.