Federer hits the grass running

World number one Roger Federer had a tough test against Sweden’s Robin Soderling in the first round of the ATP grasscourt tournament here on Tuesday before triumphing 6-7 (5/7), 7-6 (7/5), 6-4.

Federer however, far from being unhappy, said the close game as he builds up for the defence of his Wimbledon title stood him in good stead for the rest of the tournament, adding it was not surprising because of last week’s energy-sapping run to the semifinals of the clay court French Open.

The 23-year-old Federer, who won this tournament the past two years, said afterwards: “I nearly got beat but I knew the match would be hard and I am lucky to have won. In previous years, I have had practically a week to prepare but this year I only had a day and a half. Therefore I’m happy with the result.

“It is also important that I advance here and have a few matches.
I have often had tight matches like that and then gone on to win the tournament.”

Federer had a stroke of luck in winning the second set tiebreak when 20-year-old Soderling double-faulted. In the third, Federer motored to a 3-0 lead but Soderling broke back to trail 5-4 with his serve to come but another double fault on a crucial point handed Federer the match.

Federer, who won his 25th consecutive victory on grass, plays Germany’s Florian Mayer in the second round.

Spain’s Juan Carlos Ferrero justified his invitation from the organisers by beating Belarussian Vladimir Voltchkov 6-7 (5/7), 6-4, 6-4 and Fabrice Santoro earned the right to play second seed Marat Safin of Russia in his next match following a 7-5, 6-2 win over Romanian Andrei Pavel.

Spanish wonder kid and newly-crowned French Open champion Rafael Nadal opens his campaign against wild card Alexander Waske of Germany on Wednesday.

Nadal said: “I hope to be able to switch from clay to grass quickly and put in some good performances. I like playing on grass and would love to improve quickly.”

The Mallorcan however did not want to comment on a possible rematch of his French Open semifinal against Federer at the same stage in this tournament.

“First of all I want to concentrate on beating Alexander Waske. A match-up with Federer is too far off. Roger [Federer] is clearly the number one and he will remain so because he is playing very well.”

There were mixed fortunes for German hopes as Rainer Schuettler found some sort of form to record his best victory for a while when he beat Argentina’s fifth seed and 2002 Wimbledon finalist David Nalbandian.

However, the host country’s Nicolas Kiefer—who had withdrawn from the fourth round of the French Open because of a back injury last week—fared less well as the 1999 champion here went down to Serbia’s Nenad Zimonjic in three sets, 6-7 (1/7), 6-3, 6-4. - Sapa-AFP

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