By Steve Keating
TORONTO (Reuters) - Roger Federer eased into the quarter-finals of the Toronto Masters with a 7-6 6-3 win over Michael Llodra on Thursday, setting up an intriguing grudge match against his Czech nemesis Tomas Berdych.
Twice a champion in Canada, Federer has shown confidence and improving form in Toronto but will need to bring his 'A' game to center court on Friday since Berdych has had the Swiss maestro's number this season.
The quarter-final will mark their third meeting in the past five months, with the hard-hitting Czech coming out on top in both previous encounters, including his quarter-final upset at Wimbledon that ended Federer's reign at the All-England Club.
"I definitely will have to go back and take a look at what didn't go so well against him and what did work well," Federer told reporters. "He's definitely on a run right now.
Playing in his first tournament since Wimbledon, Federer struggled early and handed the Frenchman an early break on a double fault to fall behind 3-0.
But the 16-time grand slam winner quickly settled into the match and battled back to win the first set in a tiebreak when Llodra double faulted on Federer's set point.
Berdych, who has climbed to number seven in the world rankings without winning a tournament this year, had to grind out a 6-3 6-7 6-4 win over Ukraine's Alexandr Dolgopolov to book his spot in the next round.
Nalbandian, who returned to action last month after missing two months with a hamstring injury, is enjoying an inspired run of form with a career high 11 consecutive wins that includes a win at last week's Washington Classic.
He also dumped two top 10 seeds in Toronto to book a spot in the quarter-finals.
"It's a good victory for me," the 2002 Wimbledon finalist and former-world number three said. "But I don't see this match in a different category of player than others that I beat last week or even (10th seed) David Ferrer this week."
Despite the loss, Soderling remains well positioned to replace defending Toronto champion Andy Murray as world number four on Monday. The Briton must reach Sunday's final to retain his number four ranking.
(Editing by Frank Pingue)