B-level clay guys Roger Federer and Andy Murray cruised in their 2015 Rome openers on Wednesday. Murray extended his current win streak to 10 after taking care of Jeremy Chardy 6-4, 6-2. A year ago, Chardy stunned Federer, but the Frenchman posed no risk to Murray who’s played a lot of tennis the last few weeks.
“My legs were a bit tired at the beginning,” said Murray. “But then I started to feel better after the first few games. For me, I felt like I played a really good match. He served big for the first set and a half. It was tough for me. But I hung in; I felt like I moved pretty well and I served well throughout the match. I was happy with the way I adjusted to the conditions. I felt like I moved well and made it difficult for him to win free points.”
Murray now has a date with David Goffin, who saved three matchpoints in the third to beat a tight JW Tsonga 6-2, 4-6, 7-5. Tsonga served for the match at 5-3 and never won another game as the Belgian ran off the last four to steal the match. Tsonga is coming back from injury and based on form, it’s a shame that he doesn’t appear to be a big threat in Paris.
Federer, who has yet to win the Rome title in this his 15th attempt, edged out a tough first set then coasted in the second to beat Pablo Cuevas 7-6, 6-4 in a rematch of their Istanbul final. Roger played well all around, especially from the backhand. The Swiss now meets the big serving Kevin Anderson.
“I know I’m not the favorite, like maybe I was in other years, but who cares really,” said Federer. “I’m happy I won my first round match. That was my focus, especially after last week and last year here, both matches I lost with match points. So I’m happy to get the victory tonight.”
Anderson should be much of a threat on the clay where he’s barely a .500 player and has never beaten a Top 10 player. But if Roger allows him to get to breakers, then things could get real interesting.
Rafael Nadal opened his bid for an eighth Rome title hammering Marcel Ilhan of Turkey 6-2, 6-0.
“I am playing better,” Nadal said. “I need to confirm that with results, and I did that last week. I haven’t played two weeks in a row at the right level yet, but today was a good start. I am happy for that.”
After beating the 87th-ranked Ilhan, things get far trickier tomorrow against the dangerous American John Isner who upended Leo Mayer.
“His serve is a big challenge, and he has a very good continuation with his forehand,” Nadal said. “It’s difficult to play against him because you don’t have a lot of control over the things that are going to happen. If he serves well, you are in big trouble. All that is in my hands is to be very focused on my serve and to try to create opportunities on his serve.”
Rafa leads Isner 5-0 including a 3-set win last month in Monte Carlo. I think Nadal will get through again. Isner, though, has lost serve since that Nadal match!
Kei Nishikori also was a winner, defeating Jiri Vesely. He’ll have a tough one tomorrow against Viktor Troicki.
Other winners were Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, Tomaz Bellucci, Dominic Thiem (via retirement from Gilles Simon) and Fabio Fognini who bageled Grigor Dimitrov in the third set for the Italian’s 200th career match win.
On Thursday, defending champion Novak Djokovic retuns in what should be a straight-forward match against Bellucci. David Ferrer takes on Garcia-Lopez, Stan Wawrinka gets Thiem and Fognini will be sure to whip the crowd into a frenzy in his match against Tomas Berdych.
THURSDAY ROME SCHEDULE
CENTRALE start 12:00
ATP –  J. Isner (USA) vs  R. Nadal (ESP)
WTA –  M. Sharapova (RUS) vs [Q] B. Jovanovski (SRB)
Not Before 4:00 pm
ATP –  K. Anderson (RSA) vs  R. Federer (SUI)
Not Before 7:30 pm
ATP –  N. Djokovic (SRB) vs [Q] T. Bellucci (BRA)
Not Before 9:00 pm
WTA – I. Begu (ROU) vs V. Azarenka (BLR)
GRANDSTAND start 11:00
WTA –  E. Bouchard (CAN) vs  C. Suárez Navarro (ESP)
Not Before 12:00
ATP – G. Garcia-Lopez (ESP) vs  D. Ferrer (ESP)
Not Before 2:30 pm
ATP –  A. Murray (GBR) vs D. Goffin (BEL)
WTA –  S. Williams (USA) vs [Q] C. Mchale (USA)
Not Before 7:00 pm
ATP – V. Troicki (SRB) vs  K. Nishikori (JPN)
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