Federer puts clay mistakes behind him

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MADRID May 3 – Roger Federer has wiped his clay-court slate clean and was Monday heading into his start at the Madrid Masters with renewed enthusiasm.The former World number 1 bids to correct the errors which bothered him in his spring debut on the surface a fortnight ago.

The two-time Madrid champion Swiss, seeded third behind Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, who is 27-0 for the year to date, admitted to some errors in strategy last month when he lost a Monte Carlo quarter-final to Jurgen Melzer.

After training in Switzerland with another Austrian, Stefan Koubek, Federer pronounced himself fit for a long haul which not only includes the clay-court run through the French Open but also the grass campaign and a Swiss Davis Cup quarter-final to follow Wimbledon.

"I had some wrong decisions against Melzer," said Federer, who awaits a second-round opponent as Olivier Rochus faces South African Kevin Anderson for the right to meet the 16-time grand slam winner.

"Other than that, I think I’ve had a pretty good season," said Federer, the winner of one 2011 title in Doha. "I did a lot of work the past few weeks in the gym and on the court, plus fitness training.

"I’m getting set for a tough stretch, I have to be ready. Stefan came over and we had a good time. The weather was perfect, I have no complaints. I’m feeling pretty well."

Federer did venture the suggestion that the ATP Masters 1000 events might consider returning to the best-of-five-set final format, which has been abandoned in recent seasons to cut down on player workload.

Over the three back-to-back Masters events in 2011 – Indian Wells-Miami, Madrid-Rome and Montreal-Cincinnati – the stress is huge.

And winning two on the trot at this level is well nigh impossible.

"It was even tougher before when you had to win six matches and play a best-of-five final. The day off between the two was a travelling day, it was almost impossible," said Federer, holder of five clay Masters 1000 titles including Madrid over Nadal in 2009.

"Now there is no more best of five and the top eight seed get first-round byes. In some ways, I’d like to see best of five coming back, maybe something will change."

On court, Gael Monfils led a trio of French players into the second round, with the ninth seed defeating Croatian Ivo Karlovic 6-3, 7-6 (8/6).

Compatriots Michael Llodra hammered American Sam Querrey 6-2, 6-3 while Adrian Mannarino put out Argentine Juan Ignazio Chela 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.

John Isner beat fellow American and 11th seed Mardy Fish 7-6 (7/5), 4-6, 7-6 (7/3) and Dutchman Thiemo de Bakker eliminated former champion Juan Carlos Ferrero 2-6, 7-5, 6-4.

In the women’s draw, China’s sixth seed Li Na survived a late fightback from Spain’s Maria Martinez Sanchez as the Asian ace reached the second round 6-4, 7-6 (8/6).

Li, who ended a five-match losing streak only days ago in Stuttgart, was comfortably in charge up a set and serving for victory when the home player made her move.

Martinez Sanchez managed to take the struggle into a tiebreaker, where Li finally restored order with the victory.

Russian eighth seed Maria Sharapova won her second match in as many days, advancing to the third round over Elena Makarova 6-3, 3-6, 6-1.

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