ROTTERDAM, Netherlands, February 16 – Former world number one Roger Federer admitted he felt the mighty weight of expectation as he returned to the ATP Rotterdam Open here on Wednesday seven years after last playing the indoor event.
The Swiss walked away in 2005 with the title and marked his return with a 6-4, 6-4 win over French world number 83 Nicolas Mahut on Wednesday.
But the 67-minute victory was far from routine, with the top seed admitting that he had little choice but to win convincingly in front of a sold-out-record crowd of more than 9,900 – a figure which surpassed the 2011 final won by Robin Soderling.
“I was trying hard to win, that’s the rule out there,” said the 16-time grand slam champion who played the Rotterdam qualifiers as a teenager in 1999 and reached the quarter-finals.
“It doesn’t matter how ugly or pretty, it’s about coming through and see what can improve in the next round.
“It’s trying to manage nerves and expectations.”
Federer, who lost both of his weekend Davis Cup matches in a defeat by the US, got a hero’s welcome as he entered the court to a standing ovation, leaving it the same way after defeating Mahut for the third time without a loss.
“There were a lot of expectations for me in the first round. not having been here for so long,” he said.
“I’m happy I came through. Nicolas can play good tennis. I was clearly lacking rhythm coming from a completely different surface.
“I found a way to win and from now on hopefully I’ll play even better.”
Federer received an unexpected day off on Thursday when intended second-round opponent Mikhail Youzhny had to withdraw with a left foot injury. That leaves Federer a spot in the quarter-finals where he will face Finn Jarkko Nieminen.