Tennis: Sela claims significant victory over Stepanek

The 24-year-old Israeli, currently ranked at No. 72 in the world, hadn’t beaten a top-20 player in nearly nine months.

Dudi Sela claimed his biggest win of the year on Sunday, beating world number 17 Radek Stepanek 6-4, 1-6, 6-2 to advance to the third round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.
The 24-year-old Israeli, currently ranked at No. 72 in the world, his lowest position since last February, hadn’t beaten a top-20 player in nearly nine months, but dominated Stepanek in the third and decisive set and wrapped up the win after one hour and 45 minutes.
Next up for Sela, who had lost five consecutive matches before arriving in California, is a third round meeting with Spaniard Tommy Robredo (23).
Despite being one of the more consistent players on the ATP Tour, Robredo, who has been ranked among the top 25 players for more than five straight years, has actually lost to Sela in all three of their previous career meetings, including the third round of Wimbledon last year.
If Sela gets the better of Robredo once more he will likely face Roger Federer in the last 16.
Federer had to work harder than expected Sunday night before beating Victor Hanescu 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-1 in the second round.
Hanescu won a set from Federer for the first time in their five meetings. But the challenge the Romanian mounted against the world’s top-ranked player by winning the tiebreaker was eroded quickly in the final set.
Federer, a two-time champion of this event, lost five points while winning the first three games of the final set and just 13 points in all in the 23-minute set.
The Swiss star, who was playing his first tour match since winning the Australian Open, had 10 aces and hit 62 winners to offset 39 unforced errors. He will face No. 27 seed Marcos Baghdatis of Cypress in the third round.
“I was happy with the way I played,” Federer said. “Not having played for so long, I thought it was a good match overall. Missed maybe some of the clutch serving when I really needed it, but that’s something that happens.”
Seventh-seeded Andy Roddick, Federer’s potential opponent in the quarterfinals, beat qualifier Lu Yen-hsun of Taiwan 6-4, 6-4 later Sunday night.
Fourth-seeded Andy Murray, losing finalist last year, beat Andreas Seppi 6-4, 6-4 in another second round match.
Murray was visibly unhappy with his play throughout the 86-minute match, repeatedly gesturing and talking to himself after errant shots.
Afterward the 22-year-old Scot headed for the practice court.
“It was a pretty scrappy match,” Murray said. “Even though it was relatively comfortable, still some tight moments. Then it was just to go and hit a few more balls and get used to the conditions.
“When you haven’t played for a long time you have to expect not to play your best in the first match out. I’m sure next round out I’ll feel fine.” The women’s tournament that began with six former champions in the field is down to two following Zheng Jie’s 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 win over Maria Sharapova, the 2006 winner.
The 10th-seeded Sharapova lost the last four games after getting treatment on her right elbow while leading, 3-2, and preparing to serve in the third set.
Sharapova, who said she had trouble extending the elbow, had 14 doublefaults and dropped serve seven times. Zheng, a semifinalist at theAustralian Open in January, dropped six service games.
Second-seeded Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark beat Maria Kirilenko ofRussia, 6-0, 6-3. Wozniacki, 19, is the tournament favorite followingtop-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova’s loss to Carla Suarez Navarro onSaturday.
In early third-round women’s matches, No. 4 Elena Dementieva was a 6-4,6-2 winner over Kirtsen Flipkens of Belgium; and No. 5 AgnieszkaRadwanska was a 6-1, 6-0 winner over Gisela Dulko, the Argentine whobeat Justine Henin in the second round.
Shahar Pe’er (20) faced world No. 12 Flavia Pennetta in the third round late Monday night.