I caught this match on live stream, although my reception wasn’t very good. Expectedly Roger came out looking less than confident. He did however manage to break Phau at 4-3 to take a 5-3 lead. The lack of confidence showed as he immediately went down 0-40 on his serve. Somehow he managed to fend off the three break points though and won set point with a serve and volley on a second serve. It was encouraging to see that he looked to approach the net. He obviously didn’t forgot how that kind of game plan payed off for him last year in the clay season. In the second set he gained some more confidence and broke serve at 2-2 to take a 3-2 lead. He had a break point at 4-2 and Phau serving, but could not convert. He finally closed out the match at 5-4 for the win. The second set should really have been 6-2, but what is important is that Federer got the win.
Federer will be looking to host the trophy once more in Estoril.
Every win from here on will help build his confidence until Roland Garros. He now comes up against Arnaud Clement, who took care of Kunitsyn and Falla in the first two rounds. That should be a better test for Roger. Surprisingly, Clement has beaten Roger three times before, but that was all before 2002. After that Roger has had five consecutive wins against the Frenchman. This also means that the 7th seed Chela didn’t make the 3rd round. Before the tournament Federer had the following to say:
“I felt good going into Rome, but after one match and intense practise I’m looking forward to the week ahead,”
“For sure, I’d like to win the tournament again. As the only Top 10 player in the draw, I have high expectations. But first of all I’d like to record my first win on clay after losing to [Ernests] Gulbis last week.
He was also asked about his title defenses at the French Open and Wimbledon:
“We’ll see how tricky it is to defend my titles. I know my game, my mind and my body is good enough. The next few weeks will be interesting, not crucial, to see where my level is at.”
Note how he takes the pressure off himself by saying that the following weeks will only be interesting, not crucial. In off court news, Roger too a tram ride with some lucky children in Lisbon yesterday. You can read about it below.