Roger Federer hadn’t played a match on clay in over three years (or 1090 days), but you wouldn’t know it watching him play today in Madrid. The 37-year-old looked dominant in a comfortable win over Richard Gasquet 6-3, 6-2 in just 52 minutes.
Federer broke early in both sets and was never troubled on serve en route to his first clay win since 2016 Rome.
Gasquet was playing his first event of the year after January groin surgery, and he won a tough 3-setter Monday over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.
“I’m very happy to be back on clay. Super happy to be back here in Madrid. The crowds and the ovation I got before and after the game were great. It really makes you feel like that was the right choice to come to Madrid, so that felt good,” Federer said. “The first game went well. I didn’t think Richard was at his best, far off. But from my side, it was a good match.
“I think, always in Spain, I’ve been well-received over the last decade or so just because of my rivalry with Rafa and all the other Spanish players, like Ferrer and so forth. So the people really know me. They followed my matches closely for so many years. They heard me speak, and they feel like they kind of know me. So then when I come to their markets, I think they appreciate it, and so do I. Full house, special atmosphere, so I appreciate it.”
Federer will await the Marton Fucsovic-Gael Monfils winner on Thursday in the third round.
Novak Djokovic won earlier and he too cruised pounding American Taylor Fritz 6-4, 6-2.
“The beginning of the match was kind of close and then I think 3-all, when I managed to make the break, and saved a break point in the next game, I thought that was the turnaround, the turning point in the match,” said Djokovic. “I thought the second set I read his serve better and just managed to put an extra ball in to the court and he made a lot of unforced errors. And I don’t think he was playing at his best today. But I think it was a solid opening match for me in the tournament.”
Novak will also have a day off tomorrow before returning to face either Diego Schwartzman or Jeremy Chardy who meet on Wednesday.
Dominic Thiem advance when American giant Reilly Opelka withdrew after getting broken to start the third. Opelka took the first in a breaker, then after dropping the second needed treatment on his lower back/hip. But unable to use his full force in the opening service game, the youngster withdrew to the 2-time Madrid finalist.
Stan Wawrinka also was a winner over Pierre-Hugues Herbert. He’ll now face clay match win leader Guido Pella who beat Daniil Medvedev in a mild surprise.
Marin Cilic, Fabio Fognini and David Ferrer posted wins as well. Playing his farewell event, Ferrer thrilled the home crowd besting countryman Roberto Bautista Agut 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.
Ferrer will now get Alexander Zverev tomorrow.
Rafael Nadal, who’s been fighting a stomach bug, makes his debut against Canadian teen Felix Auger-Aliassime and Juan Martin del Potro plays his first clay match of 2019 against Serbia’s Laslo Djere.
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