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Friday March 8, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Thursday April 18, 2013 MYT 1:28:15 AM
INDIAN WELLS: Roger Federer, with two unsuccessful title defences behind him already this year, is eager to reverse that trend at the Indian Wells Masters.
The Swiss great, seeded second in the first of the ATP's elite Masters events of 2013 behind world number one Novak Djokovic, missed out on retaining titles in Rotterdam and Dubai.
In Rotterdam he fell to France's Julien Benneteau in the quarter-finals, while in Dubai he failed to convert three match points in a semi-final loss to Tomas Berdych.
But Federer didn't seem to think it was time to panic as he assessed his season so far on Thursday.
"I think I played really well in Australia," he said of his semi-final run in the Australian Open. "Rotterdam, I was disappointed with. I felt I could have done better.
"Dubai was a bit unfortunate, losing with three match points and having to explain the loss when you feel you should be preparing for the final.
"What happened, happened. I'm playing fine. Obviously I hoped to have won a tournament by now, but I'm happy with my game."
The hard courts of the California desert have been fertile ground for Federer. His victory over American John Isner in last year's final made him the first to win the men's title at this combined WTA and ATP event four times.
In his second-round opener on Saturday, Federer will face Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan, who defeated Canadian qualifier Vasek Pospisil 7-6 (7/5), 6-3 on Thursday.
But Federer could face a major hurdle in the quarter-finals, where he's projected to meet familiar foe Rafael Nadal.
Nadal is seeded fifth as he continues his return from a seven-month injury absence.
"I only just saw him yesterday after my practice. I was really excited to see him again," Federer said. "We hadn't had much contact. I think he wanted to get away from it all, which I really understand."
Third-seeded US Open champion Andy Murray noted it would be odd to see Nadal and Federer squaring off in the quarters.
"Seeing him in the same quarter as Roger is probably something that hasn't happened in nine or 10 years," Murray said, as he, too, said he was glad to see Nadal back in action.
"I think whichever tournament he plays he adds a lot of value," Murray said.
Women's seeds were to swing into action on Friday, with second-seeded Maria Sharapova taking on former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone of Italy and third-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland launching her campaign against US wild card Maria Sanchez.
Former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, the fifth seed, will play a second-round match against Olga Govortsova of Belarus.
Top seed Victoria Azarenka won't launch her title defence until Saturday, when she faces two-time champion Daniela Hantuchova.
Slovakia's Hantuchova beat French qualifier Stephanie Foretz Gacon 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 on Thursday to book a showdown with Azarenka, whose perfect 14-0 record in 2013 includes an Australian Open triumph. -AFP
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