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Roger Federer off to a winning start in Basel

Anand Datla
FEATURED COLUMNIST
Modified 28 Oct 2013, 20:49 IST
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2013 Shanghai Rolex Masters - Day 4

Roger Federer survived a few early jitters before putting it past Adrian Mannarino to reach the second round of the ATP World Tour 500 – Swiss Indoors Basel event. In his first tournament since parting ways with Paul Annacone, the Swiss survived a break in the fourth game of the first set before settling down to knockout the Frenchman 6-4, 6-2 in an hour and 12 minutes. The victory took Federer to within two matches of scoring 50 match wins at what is essentially his home tournament.

The former world No.1 is currently ranked 8th in the race to London and is barely assured of a place at the ATP World Tour Finals in London, later this November. A sixth title in Basel could do the embattled veteran a world of good, as he continues to seek a place at the final event of the year. Incidentally, Federer has amassed an impressive six titles at the year end gala as well.

Federer got off the blocks in a hurry, running up a 0-40 lead in the first game. Mannarino managed to save one, but the Swiss took the break on the next point to put his nose ahead early in the contest. Federer was still looking tentative, especially on his second serve and Mannarino took advantage to level scores at 2-2 in the first set.

But Federer did an encore in the seventh game when he earned three breakpoints at 0-40. The 62nd ranked Frenchman saved two of those points, but failed to prevent the break. That was enough for the Swiss to wrap up the the first set at his first opportunity in the tenth game after 33 minutes. With neither man serving exceptionally well throughout the set, Mannarino’s two double faults and the fact that he managed to win just 5 of 15 second serve points proved enough to give Federer the edge.

In the second set, Federer enjoyed breakpoints in the first and third games – four of them in total – but failed to convert as Mannarino held ground to stay even at 2-2. The Swiss legend inched closer to victory by breaking serve in the fifth game and he when he cushioned himself with another break in the seventh game it was all but over for the Frenchman.

Federer held at love to march into the round of 16 and a meeting with either Denis Istomin or Horacio Zeballos. It was Federer’s fourth straight victory over Mannarino in as many meetings. Federer has also won all four of his career meetings against Istomin, but has never come face to face against the clay specialist Zeballos. The Argentine, ranked 51st, has been in the news this year for handing Nadal a loss in the finals of the first tournament upon his return earlier this year.

Federer is likely to encounter either Alexandr Dolgopolov or Grigor Dimitrov in the quarter-finals. The Swiss is seeded third behind defending champion Juan Martin Del Potro and the second seeded Tomas Berdych. Federer’s compatriot and contender for one of those four remaining spots for London is seeded fourth, placed in the same half as Del Potro.

In other matches, qualifier Tobias Kamke and Lukasz Kubot also advance to the next round with straight set victories over their opponents. Dolgopolov was scheduled to follow Federer on court to take on Kenny de Schepper on the centre court. Tomas Berdych, Kei Nishikori, Stanislas Wawrinka and Marcos Baghdatis are all scheduled to play their first matches on Tuesday.

The withdrawal of Rafael Nadal from the Basel tournament owing to fatigue has opened up an opportunity for Federer to stamp his authority yet again this year at his home event, where he once stood in as a ball boy.

Published 22 Oct 2013, 00:01 IST
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