Federer tops nemesis Canas at Rome Masters; Roddick beats Fish

ROME -- Roger Federer is back on track.

The top-ranked player defeated one of his most challenging opponents Tuesday, cruising past Guillermo Canas 6-3, 6-3 in the second round of the Rome Masters.

Perhaps more importantly, Federer said he is nearly back to normal after being slowed by mononucleosis earlier in the year.

"I think I was lacking matches at one stage, when I lost in the first round of Dubai. Now, I'm again back in my stride and feel like I'm playing well and nothing ever happened," Federer said. "It was a tough couple of months early on."

Also Tuesday, Andy Roddick defeated Mardy Fish 6-1, 6-4 in an all-American matchup. Roddick's only other match on clay this year was a Davis Cup win against Jurgen Melzer in February.

"It's OK," Roddick said of his game on clay. "I only have one match to judge it on and that's this one, so I guess it's good."

In first-round play, 2001 champion Juan Carlos Ferrero rallied past Nicolas Kiefer 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-4 to set up a meeting with three-time defending champion Rafael Nadal.

Also, 14th-seeded Tommy Robredo defeated Juan Ignacio Chela 6-4, 6-1, Jose Acasuso eliminated Dmitry Tursunov 6-4, 6-2 and Croatian wild card Mario Ancic dispatched Feliciano Lopez 6-4, 6-4.

Three seeds were upset in the first round Tuesday. No. 11 Carlos Moya was eliminated by fellow Spanaird Fernando Verdasco, 6-3, 6-4; Frenchman Gilles Simon beat his 10th-seeded compatriot
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (6); and Croatia's Ivo Karlovic defeated 15th-seeded Paul-Henri Mathieu 7-6 (4), 6-2.

Besides falling to Andy Murray in Dubai, Federer lost to Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open semifinals, then fell to Fish and Roddick in his last two tournaments before the clay-court season.

Federer opened his clay campaign in April, winning in his debut at the Estoril Open in Portugal. It marked his first victory of 2008 in his fifth tournament of the season, the longest he's waited for a victory in nine years.

A week later, Federer reached the final of the Monte Carlo Masters, losing in straight sets to Nadal after surrendering a 4-0 lead in the second set.

"I won in Estoril and beat [David] Nalbandian, Djokovic and [Gael] Monfils in Monte Carlo, and played a good final against Nadal, so I'm on a good run on clay," Federer said.

Canas beat Federer twice early last year and was one of the few players with a winning record against the Swiss player. The pair are now tied 3-3 in career meetings.

"Guillermo in the [second] round was tough. We've had some tough ones in the past, so I knew it was going to be difficult," Federer said.

All five of Federer's previous meetings with Canas had came on hard courts. This tournament is a key clay-court tuneup for the French Open, which begins May 25.

"I guess he grew up on clay like I did," Federer said. "Who knows? Different times, different results. This was a good match to start off the Rome campaign."

Canas relied on his speed to simply keep the ball in play and force Federer into mistakes. Federer committed 27 unforced errors to 13 for Canas, but led 34-10 in winners.

Federer also had eight aces, and had several drop-shot winners.

Federer began working with clay-court guru Jose Higueras in Estoril, and Switzerland's Davis Cup captain, Severin Luthi, is offering help this week.

"Severin watched [Canas] yesterday and we all know he plays very far behind the court, so I tried [a drop shot] once and it worked, then I tried it a few more times and it worked even better," Federer said.

Roddick improved his record against his longtime friend Fish to 8-1.

"It's tough playing against someone you're friends with, and unfortunately for Mardy I've played some good tennis throughout my career against him," Roddick said.

Roddick led the U.S. to a win over France in the Davis Cup quarterfinals nearly a month ago and hadn't played since.

"I've been training at home, but it's never really the same as an actual tournament atmosphere, especially coming from American clay courts," Roddick said. "It's good to get through the first one, so at least you're getting some matches in."