ROME, Italy, May 17 – Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal stepped up their preparations for the French Open a gear as both advanced without any problems in their opening matches at the Rome Masters here on Wednesday.
Federer’s last minute decision to compete was rewarded immediately as he coasted to a 6-3, 6-4 second-round win over Argentinian journeyman Carlos Berlocq.
Nadal slayed a mental dragon as he earned revenge against Florian Mayer 6-1, 7-5 after losing to the German last autumn in Shanghai.
Second seed Nadal won the first set on a double break, with a break for 6-5 in the second paving the way to the win.
“The first set was important,” said the Spaniard. “I felt good with my forehand. It’s tough to play Mayer, he gives you on rhythm.”
Federer was back on court just three days after winning the Madrid title on the controversial blue clay surface, an event where rivals Novak Djokovic and Nadal fell by the wayside – both of them fiercely critical of the slick surface.
But with a ferocious series of tests over the next four months including the French Open, Wimbledon, the London Olympics and the US Open, Federer was not about to overload his programme unnecessarily.
“I only decided today after practise this morning,” said the Swiss, whose win in Madrid took him to 74 ATP titles.
“I wanted to see how I felt and that nothing major was bothering me.
“I’m happy I felt good out there, but I’m going round-by-round.
“We are ahead of a long summer, this is the start of many events in a row and potentially a lot of five-setters. I needed to make sure that I took a good decision.”
The world number two with four titles this season — including two of the first three Masters events — will next play Spanish veteran Juan Carlos Ferrero, champion here 11 years ago.
Federer is on the hunt for his first Rome title after losing the 2003 and 2006 finals. The Swiss great never allowed Berlocq a look in as charged out by winning the first dozen points of the contest.
He said that making the quick-change from the speed of a Madrid clay court to the slower one in Rome is always a test.
“You have to make adjustments. Guys can stand way behind the service line here and you have to watch your returns. It changes the whole playing style from the baseline and how points are constructed.
“I had two days off, had there only been one I don’t think I would have played here, “he confessed.
Federer’s tough opponent in the Madrid final seventh seed Tomas Berdych also progressed with a 6-4, 6-1 defeat of Lukas Kubot although two seeds did not make it.
Federer’s compatriot Stanislas Wawrinka, a one-time finalist here, upset Serb eighth seed Janko Tipsarevic 6-3, 6-1 while Italy’s Andreas Seppi gave the home crowd a cheer as he rallied past giant American John Isner 2-6, 7-6 (7/5), 7-5.
In the women’s tournament, Czech Petra Cetkovska upset third seed Agnieszka Radwanska 6-4, 4-6, 6-1 with the Pole losing her eighth match of the year, with six of those defeats coming at the hands of Victoria Azarenka.
Australian fifth seed Samantha Stosur defeated Italian Sara Errani 6-3, 7-5 while Spain’s Anabel Medina Garrigues advanced 6-4, 5-0 as former number one Caroline Wozniacki had to quit with breathing problems.
Both Williams sisters won against Russians, with ninth seed Serena Williams beating Nadia Petrova 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 and Venus Williams stopping Ekaterina Makarova 7-6 (9/7), 6-1.
Top seed Victoria Azarenka’s match with talented Israeli Shahar Peer was the last one on court and the world number one wasted no time in getting off it with a 6-1, 6-2 victory.