Federer Opens Clay Season Today in Estoril

Posted on April 15, 2008

First round action continues Tuesday at the Estoril Open, a €370,000 ATP International Series event on clay courts at Estoril, Portugal. Among those in action today is top seed and world No. 1 Roger Federer, who opens his clay season with new coach Jose Higueras at his side.

In the first ATP match on Court Central, Croat Ivo Karlovic faces Portuguese wild card Rui Machado. Both players are making their first Estoril appearance since first round losses in their event debuts in 2005.

Ivo Karlovic, 29, has a 7-8 season record with his best result the Rotterdam semifinals in February (l. to Llodra). Since then, he has gone 1-3 in three tournament appearances. Last year in the opening week of the spring clay court season, Karlovic won his first career ATP singles title, at Houston (d. Zabaleta). He went on to win titles on grass at Nottingham (d. Clement) and on hard courts in Stockholm (d. T. Johansson), as he joined No. 1 Roger Federer as the only players to win titles on three different surfaces in 2007. In his previous Estoril appearance, Karlovic lost to Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in straight sets.

Rui Machado, who celebrated his 24th birthday last Thursday (April 10), made his ATP debut at this event in 2005 – a three-sets loss to Argentine Agustin Calleri. He has a 4-9 career record at the ATPlevel, but all his wins have come in Davis Cup action, most recently on Friday in Estoril when he won the opening rubber in Portugal’s 4-1 win against Tunisia. Machado has enjoyed success on the Futures circuit this year with a 28-1 record and five titles, including three straight title wins in Portugal.

Following on Court Central, World No. 1 Roger Federer makes his Estoril debut against Belgian Olivier Rochus.

Roger Federer, 26, is still looking to reach his first final of the 2008 ATP season following semifinal results at the Australian Open (l. to Djokovic), AMS Indian Wells (l. to Fish) and AMS Miami (l. to Roddick) and a first round loss in Dubai (l. to Murray). This is the first time since 2000 he’s began the first three months of the year without a title. It is also his longest final drought since the end of 2002 and first month of 2003 when he went seven tournaments without a final. Federer, who is competing in his first non-ATP Masters Series tournament on clay since Gstaad in July 2004 (d. Andreev in final), has compiled a 32-6 clay court record the last two years en route to back-to-back runner-up efforts at Roland Garros. Of Federer’s six losses on clay, five have come to Rafael Nadal.

Third up on Court Centralito, recent AMS Miami champion and 2003 Estoril winner Nikolay Davydenko takes a 3-0 lifetime record into his match against Austrian Jurgen Melzer. All three of his win came in three sets, including their clay court meetings in 2005 at AMS Monte Carlo and St. Poelten.

Nikolay Davydenko, 26, enters with a 20-5 season record and will be looking to win his eighth straight match. He won his second career ATP Masters Series title earlier this month in Miami, posting his first career wins over Andy Roddick in the semifinals and Rafael Nadal in the final. On Sunday, the World No. 4 clinched Russia’s place in the Davis Cup semifinal when Czech Tomas Berdych retired in the fifth set of their match. Davydenko has alternated between first round losses (2001, ‘04, ‘07) and final runs in his five Estoril appearances. He won the title in 2003 (d. Calleri) and, in 2006, defeated Vince Spadea, Marat Safin, Gilles Muller and Carlos Moya before losing to No. 4 David Nalbandian in the final. He has advanced to the Roland Garros semifinals two of the past three seasons.

Jurgen Melzer, 26, is making his Estoril debut and enters with a 6-9 ATP record for the season. He has yet to win consecutive matches this year, but posted quality wins at the two AMS events, defeating Marat Safin in Indian Wells (l. to Murray) and Michael Llodra in Miami (l. to Tsonga). In between he reached the semifinals at the Sunrise Challenger (l. to Grosjean). The Austrian No. 2 (behind Koubek) finished last season inside the Top 100 for the sixth straight year highlighted by a runner-up showing in Las Vegas (l. to Hewitt). He won his sole ATP title on clay, in 2006 at Bucharest (d. Volandri). (ATP Digital Services)