TENNIS – Roger Federer made a winning start to his Roland Garros campaign with a 6-3 6-3 6-4 win over Alejandro Falla in one hour and 49 minutes on the Philippe Chatrier court in Paris. The other top-ranked Swiss player, Stan Wawrinka, also had a comfortable start beating Marsel Ihlan with 6-3 6-2 6-3 Diego Sampaolo
Falla, who in past has posed a very tough challenge for the World’s No.2 Federer despite the fact that the Colombian has never beaten the Swiss legend in their 7 previous meetings. There most notable encounter was at Wimbledon 2010 when Falla led 2 sets to love and served for the match in the fourth set. He was a mere 4 points away from sending the then defending champion Federer packing in the 1st round. However, Federer pulled through in that match as he did again in last year’s Halle final where Falla again presented himself as a formidable opponent.
This match would be no different as Falla started well earning an early break point chance but Federer saved it to stay ahead at 2-1. The 2009 Roland Garros champion held his serve at love for 4-3 before earning break point chances on the Falla serve. Falla saved the first three but Federer finally able to convert as the Colombian made two unforced errors allowing Federer to serve out the opening set 6-3. The momentum carried over into the 2nd set for the Swiss as broke Falla early in the third game for 2-1 before sealing the second set breaking Falla again to take it 6-3.
In the 3rd set, Falla was once again under pressure when he had to save three break points before holding his serve in the early part of the set. Federer faced a single break point but he held serve to maintain his lead at 3-2. Things remained on serve until Falla was serving to stay in the match down 4-5. Federer broke him for a fourth time to take the match 6-3 6-3 6-4.
Federer had 42 winners, including 8 aces and converted on four of his 15 break point chances. Federer extended his winning streak to 8-0 over Falla who was a Lucky Loser into the main draw this year as he lost in the last round of qualification on Friday. In the next round, Federer will face Marcel Granollers who beat Matthias Bachinger 6-4 6-3 7-6(7) to advance.
Federer’s compatriot Stan Wawrinka (8) beat Marsel Ihlan 6-3 6-2 6-3. Wawrinka held his serve after a tough opening game. Ilhan had four early break points but failed to convert any of them as they remained on serve until Wawrinka edged ahead 3-2. The Swiss No. 2 got his first break point in the 6th game. He converted and consolidated the break by holding serve for 5-2. Ilhan was able to hold serve in the next game but was unable to recover the break as Wawrinka closed out the set at 6-3.
Wawrinka got the early break in the first game of the second set and earned the double break in the 5th game for 4-1. Wawrinka earned another break point up 5-1 but Ilhan saved it. Wawrinka had no problems taking a 2-0 sets lead over Ilhan 6-3 6-2. Last year, Wawrinka lost in the first round to Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in 4 sets. This year, his French Open campaign opener was far easier as he raced out to a 3-1 lead in the 3rd set. Ilhan earned himself a 6th break point in the 8th game but as with the other 5, he was unable to convert as Wawrinka held serve for 5-3. Wawrinka then broke Ilhan again to take the match 6-3 6-2 6-3.
Kei Nishikori (5) beat Paul-Henri Mathieu 6-3 7-5 6-1 already improving on last year’s result when he was knocked out in the 1st round by Martin Klizan. The Japanese player converted 7 of his 15 break point chances. After two tight games to open the match, Nishikori got the first break of the match in the 1st set en route to winning it 6-3. Nishikori went up an early break in the 2nd set but Mathieu reeled off three consecutive games to level it. However, Nishikori would not be denied the set and quickly took back the momentum by taking the set 7-5 and a commanding lead up 2-0 sets. In the 3rd set, both Mathieu and his home crowd were deflated as Nishikori cruised through it 6-1 to take the match in straight sets.
It was not all disappointment for the Frenchmen on this day as both wildcard Nicolas Mahut and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (14) won their matches in relative ease. Mahut took out Kimmer Coppejans 6-3 6-4 7-6 and Tsonga beat Christian Lindell 6-1 6-2 6-2. Ernests Gulbis (24) who is having a most dismal year is looking to defend the semifinal points he earned here last year and is 4 matches away from doing so as he won over Igor Sijsling 6-4 6-4 7-6 to get to the next round.
Other winners on the day include Roberto Bautista Agut (19) beat Florian Mayer 6-3 6-1 6-3 setting up a second round encounter against Lukas Rosol who beat Swedish rising star qualifier Elias Yimer 6-2 7-6(7) 6-3. Philipp Kohlschreiber (22), who last year lost a marathon 3rd round match 12-10 in the 5th set against Andy Murray, eased past Go Soeda of Japan 6-1 6-0 6-2. Dudi Sela, Dusan Lajovic and Pablo Andujar also moved through to the 2nd round. Damir Dzumhur was able to get to the next round when after being up 2-0 sets, Mikhail Youzhny retired from the match.
There were two minor upsets on the day, American Steve Johnson taking out the 26th seed Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-3 6-3 6-7 3-6 6-3 and Marcos Baghdatis knocked out Ivo Karlovic (25) 7-6 6-4 6-4.
Nikoloz Basilashvili survives scare in Sardinia
The third day of the Italian 250 event saw a trio of seeded players secure their places in the quarter-finals.
A strong Mediterranean wind was not enough to blow away Nikoloz Basilashvili at the Sardegna Open as he came through a tense 3-setter against Slovakian qualifier Jozef Kovalik.
The fourth seed’s typically aggressive style at times threatened to prove his undoing in Cagliari. A topsy-turvy encounter in blustery conditions was ultimately defined by the marathon tenth game in the deciding set, Kovalik missing five match points as his opponent’s serve just about held firm. Basilashvili then immediately broke himself, going on to complete a 4-6, 6-4, 7-5, victory.
He will take on Jan-Lennard Struff in the quarter-finals. The fifth seed overpowered Britain’s Liam Broady 6-4 6-2, a much-improved performance from the German after his nervy first-round slugfest with Joao Sousa.
Qualifier Broady, whose strong start to the year has seen him reach a career-high ranking of 152, started well. He broke the fifth seed in the second game, but Struff was able to respond immediately before going on to take the first set 6-4. The Brit faded in the second set, Struff’s superior ranking showing as he overpowered his opponent with some brutal forehands and booming serves. If both men bring their best form, his match-up with Basilashvili on Friday should be an entertaining encounter.
Elsewhere, Aljaz Bedene defeated Egor Gerasimov 6-4, 7-6(5). Fresh from an impressive win over Guido Pella in round one, qualifier Gerasimov would have had high hopes to progress further, facing an opponent ranked only 22 places higher. It looked good for the Belarussian as he edged a break ahead early on, but the ever-reliable Bedene reeled off three games in a row to take the first set. A similarly tight second set looked to be going Gerasimov’s way when he stormed to a 4-0 lead in the tie break, but Bedene once again took charge, winning 7 of the next 8 points to book a spot in the next round.
His opponent there will be second seed Taylor Fritz, who enjoyed a relatively easy ride in the final match of the day. He breezed through the opening set against Andrej Martin 6-2, looking strong in his first outing on clay in 2021. The players traded two breaks each in the second set before Fritz took the tie break 7-4. This week is the first tournament Fritz is playing as American No.1 after recently overtaking John Isner.
Roger Federer Set To Start Clay Campaign In Madrid
The world No.7 will be back on the Tour shortly as he seeks his first title since the 2019 Swiss Indoors.
20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer is set to return to competitive tennis later this month after being included in the entry list for a key Masters 1000 tournament.
The former world No.1 is currently down to play the Madrid Open which will start on April 30th and takes place over 10 days. Federer returned to the Tour at the Dubai Tennis Championships last month in what was his first tournament in over a year due to a knee injury which required two operations. In Dubai he reached the quarter-finals before losing to Nikoloz Basilashvili who went on to win the title.
Since then the Swiss maestro has returned to the practice courts to “work his way back out on tour,” according to his agent Tony Godsick. Federer has already confirmed that he will play on the clay this season but admits that it is because he has little choice. The 39-year-old has already stated that his goal is to be in top shape in time for the grass-court swing which starts after the French Open.
“What comes before the grass courts are the clay courts,” Federer told reporters on March 11th. “So I have no choice but to play on clay if I want to play matches.
“The clay could be good or bad for me. I will only know in practice, but I don’t think it’s going to be bad. I assume I will play some clay.”
It isn’t the first time Federer has started his return to the clay in Madrid. In 2019 he played his first match on the surface in almost three years at the tournament after skipping the clay-court season the two previous years.
Also on the Madrid entry list is Federer’s rivals Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal who both missed the Miami Open. Dominic Thiem is also set to play in the tournament after he recently announced a delay to his return to professional tennis because he isn’t ready to compete yet.
The Madrid Open has been largely dominated by the Big Four (including Andy Murray) for more than a decade. Since 2008 only one player outside of the quartet has won the title which was Alexander Zverev back in 2018. Last year’s edition was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rafael Nadal Will Be Ready For Start Of Clay Season, Says Doctor
A member of Nadal’s team has issued some encouraging news.
It appears that Rafael Nadal’s recent woes are behind him as he looks to get back on track at next week’s Monte Carlo Masters.
The 34-year-old hasn’t played a tournament since his loss to Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open earlier this year. Throughout the first quarter of the season Nadal has been troubled by a back problem which he first picked up in Melbourne. The injury forced him to pull out of both the Rotterdam Open and Miami Masters. Overall, he has played just five matches so far in 2021.
Nadal will be looking to regain momentum on his beloved clay. A surface which he has won 60 ATP titles on, including a record 13 French Open trophies. According to his doctor, Ángel Ruiz-Cotorro, the world No.3 is ‘training well’ at present.
“He is training well, he is training hard. His goal is clay. First is Monte Carlo and his final goal is Roland Garros. It is clear,” Cotorro told RTVE.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion will be seeking his 12th title in Monte Carlo in what is a tournament record. He has won three out of the four past editions with the only exception being Fabio Fognini who won the title in 2019. Last year’s tournament was axed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Looking further on in the calendar, Nadal is expected to play tournaments in Barcelona, Madrid and Rome before the French Open which is set to start in May. Although it is possible that his commitments could change. A member of the French government has also admitted that it is possible that Roland Garros could be delayed for a second year in a row due to the pandemic but no such change has been formally announced.
So far in his career Nadal has won 86 ATP titles and earned more then $123 million in prize money. He is only the fourth player in the Open Era to have won 1000 or more matches on the men’s Tour.
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