SHANGHAI: Roger Federer reached the Masters Cup semifinals and helped defending champion David Nalbandian along with him.

Nalbandian ousted Andy Roddick 6-2, 7-6(4) on Thursday for his first win of the round-robin stage. That assured Federer a place in the semis.

Nalbandian then relied on top-ranked Federer beating Ivan Ljubicic to advance.

And Federer delivered 7-6(2), 6-4 extending his winning streak to 27 and making him 15-0 in Masters Cup round-robin matches.

Federer, broken in the opening game, closed with an ace in 1-hour, 33-minutes after breaking fourth-ranked Ljubicic once in each set.

Fifth in-a-row

He is into the Masters Cup semifinals for the fifth consecutive year, and is chasing his third title at the season-ending tournament.

Roddick, who was only one serve away from victory over Federer two days ago, slumped out on a countback.

Nalbandian, Roddick and Ljubicic all ended 1-2, with Nalbandian having the best percentage of sets won.

``In this group, it's tough to win just one match,'' said Nalbandian. ``I'm sure if I do it, I'll be ready for semis.

``Sometimes you need a little of luck.''

Nalbandian, who upset Federer to win last year's Masters Cup final, said it was difficult to enjoy the win after learning that a young relative had died in an accident in Argentina.

``It was terrible (but) I can do nothing from here,'' he said. ``I try to push as hard as I can on the court.''

Bad start

The night started badly for the fifth-ranked Roddick, who was broken in the opening game and again in his third service game.

Nalbandian kept up the pressure in the second, breaking Roddick in the seventh game on consecutive errors from the American.

But he admitted getting nervous when serving for the match, Roddick breaking back to level at 5-5 after getting breakpoint on the 24-year-old Argentine's double-fault.

In the tiebreaker, Roddick wasted a mini-break at 3-1 and then had a double-fault his first of the match to give Nalbandian a 5-3 cushion.

Nalbandian set up match point with an overhead winner and closed when Roddick netted a return.

Philosophical

Roddick was philosophical about ending the season on two losses after climbing back into the Top 10 since Wimbledon.

``I think two nights ago was a little bit more emotionally taxing than tonight,'' he said. ``It's a downer, don't get me wrong, but I can still take a lot of positives away from the last four months.

``Let's put it in perspective. Going into the summer, I think I was 18 in the champions race with people questioning if I would ever play top-level tennis again I righted that.''

Top pair bows out

In the doubles, top-ranked U.S. pair Bob and Mike Bryan missed out on a semifinal spot after losing to Paul Hanley of Australia and Zimbabwe's Kevin Ullyett 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-4.

The Bryans, assured of the year-end No. 1 ranking, finished 1-2 in the round-robin format.

Hanley and Ullyett were undefeated in the Red Group, while sixth-seeded Martin Damm and Leander Paes advanced following a 6-4, 7-6(6) win over Israeli pair Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram.

Three pairs finished 1-2, with Damm-Paes advancing on better sets record.

The results: Singles: Red Group: 7-David Nalbandian bt 5-Andy Roddick 6-2, 7-6(4); 1-Roger Federer bt 4-Ivan Ljubicic 7-6(2), 6-4.

Standings: Federer 3-0 (sets 6-2); Nalbandian 1-2 (4-4); Roddick 1-2 (4-5); Ljubicic 1-2 (3-5).

Doubles: Red Group: 4-Paul Hanley/Kevin Ullyett bt 1-Bob/Mike Bryan 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-4.

6-Martin Damm/Leander Paes bt 7-Jonathan Erlich/Andy Ram 6-4, 7-6(6).

Standings: Hanley-Ullyett, 3-0 (6-2); Damm-Paes, 1-2 (4-4); Bryan-Bryan, 1-2 (4-5); Erlich-Ram, 1-2 (2-5). AP

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