Federer shines amid sunny spells

Agha Hamza/afp May 12, 2010

MADRID: World number one Roger Federer began the defence of his Madrid Masters crown with a 6-2 7-6 morale-boosting dismissal of Benjamin Becker in the second round on Tuesday.

With the sliding silver roof open on Manolo Santana court at the Magic Box arena and bursts of sunlight bathing the red clay, the Swiss barely broke sweat against the German world number 46. Becker mounted a mini fightback to save two match points at 6-5 down in the second set and one more in the tiebreak but sent a backhand wide on the next point to hand Federer victory.

"The moment the match started I felt great," Federer, who won the first point of the match on his serve with a powerful smash, said at a news conference. "I was hitting the ball fine and this centre court just feels right to me. "I've obviously never lost on this court so that gives me confidence and I think that showed today in my game."

The 28-year-old will be hoping to keep up his run in Madrid as he has not claimed a title since lifting his 16th grand slam crown at the Australian Open in January. His clay court season has failed to spark in to life ahead of this month's French Open, where he is the champion.

He was knocked out in the second round of the Rome Masters by Ernests Gulbis and fell to Albert Montanes in the semi-finals at Estoril last weekend. His win in Madrid last year, adding to his title in 2006, was the springboard for his first Roland Garros crown and a sixth Wimbledon victory and he said he felt even better physically this year after not playing much in the past months.

"The (overall) feeling maybe last year was a little bit better but then again after today's match I feel great," he said. Even if he failed to progress to the later stages in Madrid, he said he would still have plenty of time to prepare for the French Open, which starts on May 23.

"I'm going to put in some hard work and can practice with tons of other top players which is going to make me really tough for Paris," he said. Argentina's David Nalbandian, who won the event in 2007 when it used to be played on hardcourt, was scheduled to meet Czech 11th seed Tomas Berdych in the first round but both players pulled out injured.

They were replaced in the draw by Americans Mardy Fish and Michael Russell. Sixth-seeded Spaniard Fernando Verdasco came safely through his second-round match against Ivo Karlovic, beating the big-serving Croat 7-6 6-3. Federer will play the winner of Wednesday's clash between compatriot Stanislas Wawrinka and Argentine Leonardo Mayer.