Federer squeaks by 1,078th ranked Suzuki

Updated: October 6, 2006, 11:10 AM ET

(Adds Henman win)

By Alastair Himmer

TOKYO, Oct 6 - World number one Roger Federer survived an almighty scare from 1,078th-ranked Takao Suzuki before edging into the Japan Open semi-finals on Friday.

The top seed prevailed 4-6 7-5 7-6 after being pushed to the limit by the inspired Japanese wildcard, who was playing his first tournament in nine months.

"I could see the headlines," a relieved Federer told reporters. "'Federer loses to a guy outside the top 1,000.' I'm glad I won, it saved my image."

The Swiss finally booked a place in the last four with a dipping forehand return that forced Suzuki into a volley error to give Federer the third-set tiebreak 7-3.

A hot start from Suzuki had ruffled Federer, the Japanese forcing him into a wild forehand to break in the third game of the opening set.

Normal service was belatedly resumed in the second when Federer levelled the match with a vicious forehand return to Suzuki's feet on set point.

Suzuki, who returned to tennis after suffering a serious shoulder injury in January, quickly recovered his composure to put Federer under more pressure in the third set.

Federer's class told when it mattered, however, as the nine-times grand slam singles champion ripped through the tiebreak to close out the match in just over two hours.

"I had to dig deep and come up with a good breaker in the end," said Federer, who improved his win-loss record for the year to 75-5. "There's always a fear of losing. It was a relief."


Federer, playing for the first time in Japan, will face Benjamin Becker in Saturday's semi-finals after the German beat fifth seed Jarkko Nieminen of Finland 6-7 7-6 6-4.

South Korea's Lee Hyung-taik upset second seed Tommy Robredo 7-6 4-6 6-1 in the bottom half of the draw as the Spaniard became the biggest casualty of the tournament so far.

"When I he went 3-0 up in the third it felt like a kick in the teeth," said Robredo. "My shoulders slumped at that point and I felt there was no way back."

Ninth seed Lee next faces Britain's Tim Henman, who crushed third seed Mario Ancic of Croatia 6-2 6-2 in his second match of the day.

Both men played rain-delayed third round matches earlier, 10th seed Henman making light of a nine o'clock start to beat Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro 7-6 6-3.

Ancic put out German Rainer Schuettler 6-2 4-6 6-4 in another match held over from Thursday.

Friday's matches were played under a closed roof because of bad weather in Tokyo.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index