Federer's focus to be fully tested by Santoro

Swiss Colleagues, having analysed Roger Federer's opening two matches at the US Open here, reckon his game is half way across the English Channel, somewhere between the French Open, where he lost in the third round, and Wimbledon, where he triumphed for the second year in a row.

Federer, who had a slight blip before eliminating Albert Costa, an experienced Spaniard, in straight sets in the first round, and dropped a set to Marcos Baghdatis, a 19-year-old Cypriot debutant, in the second round, agrees that he needs to raise the level of his concentration. He is now due to meet the tricky Fabrice Santoro, a Frenchman who plays two-handed on both wings.

The world No 1's problem is that his matches have begun so smoothly that he has been unprepared for the odd rough patch. "I should have learned something from the first-round match," Federer said, recalling that he had been a break up against Costa in the first set and then had to scramble for 7-5.

Baghdatis, last year's world No 1 junior, made history in the opening round by becoming the first player from Cyprus to win a match at a Grand Slam championship in the open era. Having qualified for his first major tournament, he was delighted to progress and share Arthur Ashe Stadium with the best player in the sport. And when Federer dropped his guard, Baghdatis levelled the match, winning a second set tie-break, 7-4.

"It's maybe not bad to get a tense moment, because the match was almost too easy," said Federer, who went on to win, 6-2, 6-7, 6-3, 6-1. "It seemed like I didn't have to do something extraordinary to be up. He was making a lot of mistakes. It was enough for me to chip my backhand in and wait for his mistake.

"That should be enough against him. But, as you see, once the match turns, then it's difficult to come up with the shots when you need them. That's what happened in the second set. To come back, he had to come up with some really good shots at the right time, and he surprised me with a few of them. Normally, it shouldn't happen, but it did. He's a big fighter, and he's got a great backhand. Once I got my focus back, I didn't have a problem any more."

Baghdatis was simply soaking up the atmosphere of a night match in the main arena when Federer allowed him into the match. "I was a bit nervous in the beginning, playing against No 1 in the world in the biggest stadium in the world," Baghdatis said. "Then I just started to have fun and play my game. Federer just didn't play so good, and I took my chance.

"Then he put his level up and won the third. In the fourth, I got a bit tired and started cramping a bit, and he played well." By that time, the newcomer was marvelling at Federer's ability. 'It's amazing playing against him," he said. "He knows how to do everything. You don't read his shots."

Baghdatis left the grounds determined to improve. "Everybody has his own game, his own talent," he said. "It's a matter of work, and I'm ready to go back and work to try to be like him."

Gaston Gaudio, the French Open champion, is also ready to go back to work after losing in the second round yesterday to Thomas Johansson, of Sweden 6-3, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.

Jennifer Capriati was in reflective mood about her game after advancing through two contrasting matches. The eighth seed in the women's singles dropped the opening set to Denisa Chladkova, of the Czech Republic, in the first round, and trounced Magui Serna, of Spain, 6-0, 6-2, on Wednesday night.

"I got a lot of the kinks out of my game tonight," Capriati said. "In the first round I was a bit nervous, as you can be at the start of a Grand Slam. Besides, my opponent played really well in the first set - it wasn't all my fault, you know. Tonight I felt more comfortable moving out there.

"You want to come out and play hard, because you're playing for those big matches when they come. You need to get into that frame of mind, so you're used to playing like that, not all of a sudden coming out playing a big player like Serena [Williams]. You can't just do that, you know, pull it out of your pocket."

The progress of Lindsay Davenport to the third round was problem-free until the American fifth seed came to serve out her match against Arantxa Parra Santonja, of Spain, at 5-0 in the second set. Davenport double-faulted twice in losing her serve and then had to save two break points in the final game before winning, 6-4, 6-2.


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