|Roger Federer digs out a shot against Nicolas Kiefer in their second-round match at the Western and Southern Financial Group Masters© Stephen Dunn/Getty Images|
MASON, Ohio (AP) -- Roger Federer hasn't resembled the best player in the world in every game this week, but has produced when it was needed.
Federer failed to hold serve four times but beat Nicolas Kiefer of Germany 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 Wednesday in the second round of the $2.45 million Cincinnati Masters.
"There's a reason he's No. 1 -- he makes the important points,'' Kiefer said.
Federer, playing in his first tournament since winning at Wimbledon in early July, needed a tiebreaker and a 7-5 set to beat wild card James Blake on Monday.
On Wednesday, Federer failed to hold serve twice in the first set, righted himself a bit in the second, then failed to hold twice in the third.
"I was struggling in the beginning,'' Federer said. "The start of the match was crucial, and I couldn't get on top of him there. Still, in the end, to turn it around and not play my best is always a good feeling.''
Kiefer couldn't help but think he let another chance to beat the No. 1 player in the world slip away.
"I couldn't pick up my game when I wanted to,'' Kiefer said. "I had a big opportunity to beat him. I had my chances. I also had a chance at Wimbledon, but today was my big chance.''
Federer is 6-3 against Kiefer and has won five straight, including three times this year. It took him four sets at Wimbledon.
Federer said the long break has drained a bit of his confidence.
"The way you read the game,; I have the feeling that's missing most,'' he said. "Then doubt suddenly creeps to your mind. You're not sure, 'Should I go for the shot or should I rather play it safe one more time?'
"When you're playing well, when you're confident, you don't think about those kind of things.''
Federer never recovered from his service break in the second game of the first set, but reversed that in the second set.
Kiefer started game 3 with a 132-mph ace -- the only point he won in that game -- and both players served out the set.
In the third, Kiefer then Federer failed to hold serve before Federer took control. He broke Kiefer in the third and fifth games -- both times with a passing shot after luring Kiefer to the net.
On match point, Kiefer hit Federer's serve into the grandstand.
Third-seeded Lleyton Hewitt of Australia also needed three sets to win his match, beating Greg Rusedski of Great Britain 1-6, 7-5, 6-4 when Rusedski double-faulted on match point.
In other matches, fourth-seeded Marat Safin of Russia beat Andy Murray of Great Britain 6-4, 1-6, 6-1; Luis Horna of Peru upset No. 9 Guillermo Coria of Argentina 6-4, 6-4, and Mario Ancic of Croatia took No. 16 seed Richard Gasquet of France 6-4, 7-6 (4).