Federer on prawl

MIAMI - Roger Federer preserved dignity among the elite at the Miami Masters earning a comfortable opening victory after world number three Andy Murray crashed out to unheralded Mardy Fish.

World number one and top seed Federer quietly dominated Nicolas Lapentti, vanquishing the Ecuadoran 6-3, 6-3 in 66 minutes.

But it was another story for Murray, who fell 6-4, 6-4 to the 101st-ranked Fish.

Federer is the sole survivor of the top three as Murray's early exit followed that of second-seeded Serbian Novak Djokovic on Friday.

Federer admitted that seeing Djokovic and Murray bow out before he had even taken the court had given him pause.

"I came through because I served very well. I had a good start into all my service games. I always knew I was going to have a couple of chances at least on the return games," said Federer, who needed only two breaks of Lapentti to earn his 12th victory of the season.

Federer is beginning a bid for a third Miami title after winning here in 2005 and 2006.

Swedish fifth seed Robin Soderling, the French Open runner-up, progressed to the third round with a 7-6 (7/5), 6-0 win over Australian Peter Luczak.

Croatian number seven Marin Cilic accounted for Stephane Robert of France 6-3, 6-1.

Spain's 10th seed Fernando Verdasco saw off Israel's Dudi Sela 6-1, 6-2 while 13th-seeded Russian Mikhail Youzhny eased past Santiago Giraldo of Colombia 6-0, 6-1.

Murray, the defending champion, looked to be sleepwalking through his 90-minute match in a city which he uses as a second home.

The defeat came in the wake of the Scot's contention that training in the brutal South Florida heat would be key to a possible title repeat.

Whatever Murray's problems on the day, Fish was delighted with the victory.

In the women's WTA event, top seed and 2006 winner Svetlana Kuznetsova beat Agnes Szavay of Hungary 6-2, 6-3 to reach the fourth round.

Three-time champion Venus Williams improved her own record at the Miami event with a 6-1, 6-4 victory.

The American, who lifted the title at Crandon Park in 1998, 1999 and 2001, claimed her 12th consecutive match win after back-to-back titles in Dubai and Acapulco this season.

The third-seeded Williams fired six aces in her 70-minute win, but also produced seven double-faults.

"Obviously being on a winning streak helps my confidence every time," Williams said.

Poland's sixth seed Agnieszka Radwanska ended the comeback hopes of former number one Ana Ivanovic 7-5, 7-5 as the Serb struggles to regroup under new Swiss coach Heinz Gunthardt.

- Sapa-AFP