900-match man Federer makes sizzling Stockholm start

Friday, October 22, 2010

STOCKHOLM - Roger Federer glided through the 900th match of his career, starting his first campaign in a decade at the Stockholm Open with a 6-1, 6-2 thrashing of American Taylor Dent.

The Swiss top seed came out on full throttle after a bye, taking just 49 minutes to roll to victory here Thursday. Federer earned the opening set in 17 minutes, saved the only two break points he faced in the fourth game of the second and won the last four games, pulling away against the number 101.

Swede Robin Soderling, the second seed, ended the hopes of German Benjamin Becker 6-3, 6-3, taking just 67 minutes to set up a quarter-final with Florian Mayer.

It was so comfortable for Federer in front of a standing-room overflow crowd that he was even able to try some serve-and-volley by way of experiment.

“I was able to try a few things in the match,” said the world number two who made his only other Stockholm appearance ten years ago with a loss in the second round. “You can occasionally do that at smaller events where the guy might not be ranked so high and you get up a double break.

“I was fortunate to get such a good result against Taylor.”

Federer remained quietly confident after his 900th match, adding: “It’s nicer to win than lose in my 900th, that’s for sure.”

Swedish second seed Robin Soderling, twice a Stockholm runner-up, was playing German Benjamin Becker.

Two-time French Open finalist Soderling needs to make it into a weekend semi-final to assure himself a place in the World Tour Finals next month, where four of eight spots are still in contention.

Rafael Nadal, Federer, Novak Djokovic and Shanghai champion Murray have already qualified for the November 21-28 showdown to end the ATP season.

Victory thrusts Federer into a quarter-final with Stanislas Wawrinka, his good friend and Beijing Olympic gold-medal doubles partner, who also beat him on clay in spring, 2009.

“Playing Stan is always difficult,” said Federer, who lost the Shanghai final at the weekend to Andy Murray, “He’s beaten me in the past (Monte Carlo, 2009). And he’s beaten top guys like (Andy) Murray at the US Open.

“We have a great friendship, it’s never easy to play another Swiss guy. It will be a special occasion. I hope to have a good match.”

Double Stockholm champion James Blake quickly hit his comfort zone on one of his favourite courts, with the American reaching the quarter-finals 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7-2) over German qualifier Matthias Bachinger.

The win marked the 15th at the Kungligahallen against just one loss, that coming in a 2007 semi-final for the 31-year-old Blake, whose ranking has dropped like a stone to 135 from it’s one-time fourth.

“I wish I could take this court with me everywhere,” said Blake, who faces off on Friday with on-fire Finn Jarkko Nieminen.

Blake claimed back-to-back title honours in 2005 and 2006, defeating Nieminen for the second trophy.

Fourth seed Ivan Ljubicic continued his career-long domination of Arnaud Clement, with the Croatian winning the over-30 second-round battle 6-3, 6-4.

Clement, 32, won their first two meetings nearly a decade ago and has now lost 10 in a row to Ljubicic. The winner pounded a dozen aces and never faced a break point in 77 minutes.

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