Federer begins clay season with win

Roger Federer made a solid start to his clay-court season and overcame Olivier Rochus to advance into the second round of the Estoril Open on Tuesday.

updated: May 10, 2008 07:54 IST
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Roger Federer made a solid start to his clay-court season, relying on the advice of provisional coach Jose Higueras to advance into the second round of the Estoril Open on Tuesday.

The Swiss top seed, seeking his first title of a slow-starting season, overcame gritty Belgian opponent Olivier Rochus 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.

Federer is playing a non-Masters ATP spring clay event for the first time since winning the Munich title in 2003. He is guided this week under a temporary arrangement with Spain's past clay master Higueras, former coach of Pete Sampras, Jim Courier and Michael Chang.

Federer is keen - but not desperate - to correct an historic imbalance in his current season. It's the first time since 2000 that he's gone the first three months of a season without a trophy.

The 12-time Grand Slam champion is currently embroiled in his second-longest trophy dry spell (five events) since late 2002 and early 2003 when he went seven tournaments without a title.

The satisfied Swiss finished his afternoon in two hours with a 17th ace.
Federer lost the first set but quickly got a grip on his game, guided by the coach he hooked up with only a few days ago under an arrangement being trialled this week but with scope for extension through the clay season and possibly beyond.

Second seed and former champion Nikolay Davydenko was untroubled after arriving from a Davis Cup win in Moscow, dispatching Austrian Jurgen Melzer 6-3, 6-1 to ease into the second round.

Davydenko won the 2003 title, played the final two years ago but has also exited three times in the first round at the Estadio Nacional.

Portugal's Rui Machado surprised ailing third seed Ivo Karlovic, advancing to a surprise win as the Croatian was trailing 6-4, 1-0 with a knee injury.

Federer began tentatively against Rochus, his fierce rival from junior days, with the Swiss forced to fight for his success in the tight early games.

Rochus saved break points in his first game on serve, then forced Federer to come from 0-30 down before holding, 2-1.

The top seed got into more difficulty in the seventh game, where he lost serve to drop to 3-4 against an opponent who threatened last year on grass at Halle, Germany with four match points.

Rochus earned a set point as Federer drove a stretched return into the net, with the Swiss handing over the set after 39 minutes from a forehand fired long, 4-6.

Federer regrouped in the second set, earning a break for 4-2 and drew level on the first of three set points as the Belgian returned wide.

In women's play, top-seeded Italian Flavia Pennetta defeated Yvonne Meusburger 4-6, 6-0, 6-2 while number two Maria Kirilenko faced a battle before stopping Swiss teenager Sandra Vogele 6-4, 6-7 (2/7), 6-1.