Federer is fluent against French

Times Staff Writer

Streaks on the line, Part I:

Roger Federer vs. the French. Federer extended his winning streak to 19 consecutive matches against Frenchmen, beating Nicolas Mahut, 6-1, 6-1, in the third round of the Pacific Life Open.

“Look, I’ve always enjoyed playing against the Frenchmen,” the top-seeded Federer said Tuesday at Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

During his 19-match streak, he has treated the French like a 16th-seeded team in the NCAA tournament.


“They have good techniques, playing style, unbelievable shot-making,” said Federer, who could have been talking about himself. “It sometimes tends to be easier playing against them. They make you play better tennis than, for instance, the Spaniards, who are just going to throw the ball into play.”

Poor Mahut, who managed to win only one point off Federer’s serve in the first set. “I was feeling like a junior today,” Mahut said.

Streaks on the line, Part II:

Maria Sharapova vs. the world. The fourth-seeded Sharapova had to fight long and hard to maintain her unblemished record in 2008. Now she is 17-0 after needing 2 hours 45 minute to secure the latest win, 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 over No. 15 Alona Bondarenko of Ukraine in the fourth round.

It was the third time in 17 matches she lost a set.

Sharapova, who will play fifth-seeded defending champion Daniela Hantuchova today in the quarterfinals, provided an interesting description of her woes against the hard-hitting Bondarenko.

“I felt like I was pretty close to being down and out because I wasn’t able to produce good points for a long period of time,” Sharapova said. “I was like a little kid that would make -- I was doing like a beaded bracelet.

“I would put four beads together and they would all fall down and then I’d start all over again.”

Unfamiliarity with Bondarenko, whom she’d never played, may have prolonged Sharapova’s discomfort. That won’t be a problem against Hantuchova. Sharapova is 6-1 against the Slovakian.

“She’s playing obviously in great form, so it will be a good test for me,” said Hantuchova, who beat Sania Mirza, 6-1, 7-6 (4). “I feel like I own this place. I’m here and anything can happen.”

She may have been on to something. “Anything can happen” appeared to be a running theme in the interview room. Third-seeded Jelena Jankovic, who is suffering from a cold, was told she “sounded sexier.” A good guess: That probably didn’t happen to Federer when he was sick with mononucleosis earlier this year.

But Jankovic has considerable game.

“Sounds sexier? I don’t want to sound sexy. I just want to feel healthy,” she said. “No, I don’t know. Maybe that’s true. Actually, I’ve been getting a lot of guys lately.”

“Anything” isn’t limited to interview rooms either. There was the big upset of the day: Mardy Fish beat No. 4 Nikolay Davydenko, 6-3, 6-2. Davydenko is the highest-seeded player to exit.

The shot of the tournament came from Juan Carlos Ferrero, who hit a between-the-legs shot for a lob winner against Mario Ancic during an electric match on Stadium Court 2.

Ferrero, who won, 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (7), said he had never even hit such a shot in practice. He was unintentionally amusing talking about his newly purchased hotel, the aptly named Hotel Ferrero, which is about 40 minutes from Valencia, Spain.

His modest venture cost more than $11 million in renovations. Naturally it has a tennis court, but not the surface you might think a clay-loving Spaniard would put down.

“There is a grass court,” Ferrero said.

Of course.




Featured matches

Today at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden:

STADIUM COURT, starting at 11 a.m.

Agnieszka Radwanska, Poland,

vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova, Russia

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, France, vs.

Rafael Nadal, Spain

Guillermo Canas, Argentina, vs.

Novak Djokovic, Serbia

Richard Gasquet, France, vs.

James Blake

Daniela Hantuchova, Slovakia, vs.

Maria Sharapova, Russia

Roger Federer, Switzerland, vs.

Ivan Ljubicic, Croatia