On a very upsetting Thursday which saw three Top 10 players fall, Roger Federer opened his 2014 grass season with a tough 3-set win over unheralded Joao Sousa 6-7(8), 6-4, 6-2 in the second round at Halle.
“A little bit of struggle on the return maybe for a set and a half,” admitted the 6-time champ Federer. “And after that I think I started to return better, make more returns off the first serve, had more variations as well on the second serve return.
“It was slightly frustrating at times clearly, but nevertheless I served well and kept on doing my thing. So, it was important to stay calm and actually I think it gives me more confidence winning this way than maybe just 6-4, 6-4 and you don’t quite know what is going on. Like this I had to stay calm, fight through the match and find a way and then the last set and a half were much better. So, I’m actually pretty happy now.”
While Federer got through, many of his rivals did not.
Fresh off a ninth French Open title, Rafael Nadal suffered his third straight defeat on the green grass losing in just 58 minutes to Dustin Brown 6-4, 6-1.
And then at Queen’s, defending champion Andy Murray’s 19-match grass win streak came to a crashing end at the racquet of Radek Stepanek 7-6(10), 6-2.
“I have only got myself to blame that I lost the first set,” said Murray. “I don’t know how many set points I had, but quite a lot of them were on my serve. “On this surface especially you shouldn’t really be losing sets like that. For me, that’s what’s disappointing really about the match. Then, unfortunately, got broken in the first game of the second set. I couldn’t quite get it back.”
Murray was playing just his second match under the new guidance of Amelie Mauresmo. Welcome to coaching, Amelie!
Somewhat shaken Murray now must turn his attention to a Wimbledon title defense.
“I’m going to take a couple of days off now, because since the Monday before the French Open I have played every single day bar one up to now. So I will take a couple of days off,” Murray said. “Then on Sunday I’ll be back here for the charity match (Rally For Bally). Then I will start practicing Sunday evening and start getting ready.”
Former finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga also dropped out losing to Australian Marinko Matosevic 6-2, 6-4 while Stan Wawrinka and Tomas Berdych were among the victors.
“I’m really happy with the match, the performance and the way I’m playing,” said Wawrinka after beating former champion Sam Querrey 6-2, 6-2. “I’m serving really big. I did what I’m doing on the practice court. That’s means I’m playing well. That’s the most important thing. I need to keep doing that, keep working out in practice to be ready for all the matches.”
On tap Friday in the quarterfinals, Federer faces Lu in Halle while at Queen’s Grigor Dimitrov meets Alexandr Dolgoplov and Feliciano Lopez takes on Tomas Berdych.
FRIDAY QUEEN’S SCHEDULE
CENTRE COURT start 12:30 pm
 K Anderson (RSA) vs  R Stepanek (CZE)
 F Lopez (ESP) vs  T Berdych (CZE)
 G Dimitrov (BUL) vs  A Dolgopolov (UKR)
 [WC] S Wawrinka (SUI) vs M Matosevic (AUS)
 C Fleming (GBR) / M Matkowski (POL) vs  D Nestor (CAN) / N Zimonjic (SRB)
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