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Federer confident his knee will hold up on return to action

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MONACO (AP) Roger Federer fully expects his left knee to hold up when he returns to action at the Monte Carlo Masters on Tuesday, and the 17-time Grand Slam champion feels “mentally and physically” rested after more than two months out.

Seeded third, Federer opens in the second round against Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. He leads the Spaniard 3-0 in career head-to-heads.

The Swiss star might be a little rusty, seeing as his last match was a semifinal defeat to top-ranked Novak Djokovic in the semifinals of the Australian Open. Shortly afterward he had arthroscopic surgery on Feb. 3 for torn cartilage in his left knee.

Although Federer was scheduled to play at the Miami Masters two weeks ago, he withdrew because of a stomach virus.

That meant he arrived much earlier than usual to practice on the clay courts of Monte Carlo, where he has been runner-up four times: three straight to Rafael Nadal from 2006-08 and to countryman Stan Wawrinka two years ago.

Federer does not have high hopes of an 89th career title, but is using the tournament more as a gauge in the lead up to the French Open in Paris, which begins on May 22.

“I am rested mentally and physically. I feel really good,” Federer said. “Every week that goes by I’m going to get better and then hopefully by Paris that’s where you really want there not to be a problem – seven (matches), five sets, OK, I’m ready for that.”

Depending on how he does here, he will decide whether to play the following clay Masters events in Madrid – starting on May 1 – and Rome the week after.

“I have to wait and see how my knee and my body react,” Federer said. “I have to see what I feel I still need to work on. Is it recovery? Is it training? Is it something specific? I don’t know yet. I will know more in two weeks. Then I can decide.”

Federer, who lost to Frenchman Gael Monfils in the third round here last year, is in the same half of the draw as Djokovic, the defending champion. He won six titles last year, beating Djokovic in two finals at Cincinnati and Dubai.

The 34-year-old’s last title came at his home town of Basel on November 1 when he beat Rafael Nadal in the final. Given his advanced age, Federer views his absence as a useful way of storing up energy that will come in handy later in the season.

“I do believe that whatever rest it is – maybe from injury, maybe from just a training block or a vacation – it all ends up somewhere in a canister where you can pull from it,” Federer said. “You see it with Tommy Haas for instance. He’s been injured for almost three years or more of his career, yet he’s still on tour. Because he’s still mentally fresh. He loves it.”

Federer, who lost to Djokovic in the final at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open last year, still strongly believes he can clinch an 18th major.

“I’ve won Paris before and I’ve played so well there over the years as well. Why not there?” he said. “But I definitely think that Wimbledon and the other Slams probably give me a bit of a better chance than the French.”

Dimitrov, Keys reach Western & Southern Open’s 3rd round

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MASON, Ohio (AP) Seventh-seeded Gregor Dimitrov defeated Feliciano Lopez 7-6 (5), 6-4 on Wednesday to reach the Western & Southern Open’s round of 16.

Sixteenth-seeded Madison Keys easily reached the women’s round of 16 in Cincinnati for the first time on her fourth try, needing just 50 minutes to zoom past Daria Kasatkina 6-2, 6-1. Keys, a right-hander who withdrew from last week’s Rogers Cup in Toronto with a left forearm injury, next will meet fourth-seeded Garbine Muguruza, the Wimbledon champion.

“I definitely thought I played really well,” Keys said. “I don’t know if I was the zone, press, but everything was going well. It was falling into place, and I didn’t have to rush anything.”

Keys was happiest about finishing quickly in the humid, 80-some-degree conditions.

“I definitely didn’t want to be out there a long time,” she said. “I wasn’t out there that long, but I was still drenched. I was happy to get back inside into the air conditioning.”

After being forced to a tiebreak in the first set, Dimitrov raised his level of play in the second with 13 winners to Lopez’s four. Dimitrov finished with 28 winners, twice as many as Lopez.

Other seeded women reaching the third round in this U.S. Open warmup were eighth-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova, with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Yulia Putintseva, and Anastasija Sevastova, with a 6-2, 7-5 win over Roberta Vinci. Qualifier Camila Giorgi advanced with a 7-6 (1), 5-7, 6-3 win over Daria Gavrilova.

Men reaching the third round on the third full day of play included David Ferrer, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-1 over Janko Tipsarevic, and Yuichi Sugita, 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-1 over qualifier Joao Sousa.

Del Potro upsets Berdych in first round in Cincinnati

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MASON, Ohio — Juan Martin del Potro advanced to the second round of the Western & Southern Open with a 3-6, 7-6 (1), 6-0 upset of 10th-seeded Tomas Berdych on Tuesday.

The 30th-ranked del Potro shook off a first-set loss, jumping out to a 4-1 lead in the second set before settling for a win in the tiebreak, which he led 5-0 and clinched with an ace. He built on his momentum by rolling through the third set against the Wimbledon semifinalist, improving to 12-0 in first-round matches this season.

Berdych was playing his first match since withdrawing from last week’s Rogers Cup in Montreal with a rib injury.

Ninth-seeded David Goffin became the first seeded man to be knocked out in Cincinnati, falling to Nick Kyrgios, 6-2, 6-3 in a first-round match. Kyrgios will meet qualifier Alexandr Dolgopolov in the second round after Dolgopolov defeated Kevin Anderson 6-4, 7-6 (6).

In women’s first-round action, Karen Khachanov beat Diego Schwartzman 6-1, 1-6, 6-3, and Ashleigh Barty beat Varvara Lepchenko, 6-4, 6-4 in a matchup of two qualifiers.