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Federer struggles to down Karlovic again

PARIS, Nov 1 (Reuters) Roger Federer struggled to tame Croat Ivo Karlovic for the second time in five days when he beat him 6-3 4-6 6-3 in the Paris Masters second round.

The world number one, who had already been made to work by the 2.08-metre tall Karlovic for a 7-6 7-6 semi-final win in Basel on Saturday, had further problems against an opponent with an awkward style and a formidable serve.

The Swiss, certain to finish the season in top spot for the fourth consecutive year, broke in the sixth game of the first set and went on to take it with a forehand winner after 35 minutes yesterday.

Karlovic fought back in the second set, earning three set points in its 1Oth game. Federer saved two but hit a forehand long on the third.

An early break in the decisive set helped Federer regain control and he stayed on top until Karlovic, who fired 16 aces to bring his 2007 total to an amazing 1,318, bowed out by missing a drop shot on the first match point.

''It was not easy but I had a lot more opportunities than in Basel and I played well at times,'' Federer said.

His reward will be a meeting with another familiar face, David Nalbandian, the man who upset him in the final of the Madrid Masters earlier this month.

Argentine Nalbandian advanced with a 6-4 6-4 victory over Spain's Carlos Moya, the 14th seed in the 2.45 million dollars indoor event.

''I'm looking forward to playing Nalbandian again,'' Federer said. ''Facing him in the third round is easier than playing him in a final because he's always a lot more dangerous in finals.'' DJOKOVIC OUT Frenchman Fabrice Santoro thrilled the home crowd by crushing world number three Novak Djokovic 6-3 6-2.

Djokovic, a revelation this season with five titles and a final appearance at the US Open, was a shadow of his brilliant best.

World number two Rafael Nadal, who had never played in the tournament before, had no such problems.

The Spaniard recovered from a break down to outclass Italian Filippo Volandri 6-3 6-1 and set up a third-round match against Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka.

Russia's Nikolay Davydenko, who won here last year and is seeded fourth, overcame a sluggish start to move past Argentine qualifier Juan Martin Del Potro 7-6 6-1.

Djokovic, who entered the Bercy hall wearing a Zorro mask which he took off when the match started, made a string of unforced errors.

''It's been a very long season and I'm really exhausted,'' said the 20-year-old Serb. ''I hope people will understand. You can't be at 100 per cent all the time.'' The resilient Santoro next faces British number one Andy Murray, who stayed on course for a Masters Cup berth by beating Finn Jarkko Nieminen 7-6 6-3.

The 20-year-old Scot, who won his third career title on Sunday in Russia, is one of several players fighting for the two remaining spots at the November 11-18 season-finale in Shanghai featuring the world's top eight.

Reuters BJR VP0420

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Story first published: Thursday, November 1, 2007, 9:04 [IST]
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