Roger Federer made a resounding start to his campaign for a sixth title with a methodical 6-1, 6-4 destruction of Benjamin Becker on a packed Centre Court at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Centre. The Swiss, down to No. 8 in the rankings, raced through the first set in 22 minutes before stepping off the gas a little in the second, to advance to the second round of the ATP World Tour 500 event.
Federer got off to a quick start, breaking the German’s serve in the second game before consolidating to take a handy 3-0 lead. Becker held serve in the fourth game, but Federer held to love in the fifth game before riding the momentum to earn a second break in the next game as he went ahead 5-1.
In their fourth career meeting, Federer was barely tested in the breezy first set. Becker won just 45% (10 of 22) of his service points to surrender the initiative to the Swiss maestro. The fourth seeded Swiss took two of three opportunities to break serve, whilst offering none on his own serve, to set the tone for the match.
The German gathered his wits to offer some resistance in the second set, surviving a pair of deuce points to hold steady at 2-1. At 30-15 in the sixth game, Federer turned on some of his old magic, racing to the baseline to retrieve the ball with a tweener lob to win the point from a seemingly lost situation.
A stunned Becker ran after the lob, but his feeble response was putaway by Federer with a feathery touch at the net. The point may have reminded the German who he was playing and he promptly surrendered a decisive break in the seventh game.
With Becker serving to stay in the match, Federer forced Becker into a 13-point duel but could not force a match point. Becker, who saved seven match points earlier this month against Huta Galung at Zagreb, won the lengthy mini-battle to force Federer to serve for the match.
Serving like a sharp shooter, Federer gained two match points at 40-15 in the 10th game. But the resilient Becker saved both points to force the game to deuce. A couple of points later, the 32-year-old from Orscholz had a break point – his only chance in the entire match, but he blew it with an unforced error.
Federer wasted no further time as he took his third match point to end the contest in an hour and two minutes. The Swiss will face the winner between Radek Stepanek and Michael Russell in the second round on Wednesday. Federer is drawn in the same half as Novak Djokovic with the two men slated to meet in the semifinals.
“I’m extremely happy with today’s match,” said Federer. “Coming out and playing free tennis like that right off the bat is a good feeling. Things can run away very quickly here,” he added. “If you look at the winner list from here, it’s guys who play well on (fast) grass courts. It’s worth it to go for your shots and you feel like risky tennis will be rewarded.”
Other winners on the day included Dmitry Tursunov, Andreas Seppi and Roberto Bautista-Agut. Tursunov, who has won just once since his run to the last four in Sydney, overcame Lukas Lacko 7-5, 6-1 to stay on course for a clash with Federer in the quarters of the event.
Seppi lost the first set to Florian Mayer, before prevailing in the longest match of the day. His 4-6, 6-1, 7-5 victory took nearly two hours. Bautista-Agut had a relatively easier time disposing of Adrian Ungur 6-1, 6-3 in 66 minutes. In the final match of the day, Philipp Kohlschreiber defeated Thiemo De Bakker 6-3, 6-3 to advance.
Meanwhile, in an entertaining doubles encounter today, Rohan Bopanna and Aisam Qureshi overcame a spirited effort from Nikolay Davydenko and Victor Hanescu 6-1, 5-7, 10-8 to advance to the second round.
Philipp Kohlschreiber suffered a nervous twitch at the very end, but saw off Thiemo De Bakker 6-3, 6-3 to progress to the next round. In the final match of the day, the German stuttered to be broken when serving for the match at 5-1 in the second set. He then surrendered three match points at 40-0 in the ninth game before taking the match on his fourth attempt.
Tuesday’s action will feature Djokovic against Denis Istomin and Juan Martin Del Potro will take on India’s Somdev Devvarman. The third seeded Tomas Berdych will take on the 159th ranked qualifier Marius Copil from Romania.
 R Federer (SUI) d. B Becker (GER) 61 64
 D Tursunov (RUS) d. [Q] L Lacko (SVK) 75 61
A Seppi (ITA) d. F Mayer (GER) 46 61 75
R Bautista Agut (ESP) d. [Q] A Ungur (ROU) 61 63