Roger Federer cruised into the second round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Monday afternoon, setting up a entertaining second round encounter with Czech No. 2 Radek Stepanek, whom he has encountered frequently on the professional circuit. This will mark the 15th time the two competitors meet on the ATP tour, with Federer leading the head-to-head series 12-2.
Taking part in his first ATP World Tour match-up since a semi-final exit to Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open, Federer appeared comfortable as he jumped to a 6-1 lead over Germany’s Benjamin Becker. While the second set was a tighter affair, the world No. 8 controlled the match-up, hitting a variety of splendid half volleys and slices to improve his head-to-head record against Becker to 4-0.
“I’m extremely happy with today’s match,” said Federer. “Coming out and playing free tennis like that right off the bat is a good feeling. I know probably Benjamin has been doing a lot of travelling back and forth, Australia, Europe, America, back to Dubai, back for Indian Wells and Miami, but you’ve got to take advantage of that. I have been here for some time. I had a good preparation. I’m happy it paid off thus far.”
Federer is campaigning for his first ATP title of the season and is confident about his chances in Dubai, considering he won the title here on five different occasions between 2003-2012.
Radek Stepanek rallied from a set down to defeat American Michael Russell in just over two hours, setting up a clash against five-time titlist Roger Federer in the second round. Stepanek hit 4 aces and won 6/10 break points to earn the 5-7, 6-3, 6-1 victory over the recent Memphis semi-finalist. His best performance came in the deciding set, where he struck 2 aces, three break points and raised his 1st and 2nd serve percentages significantly compared to the opening frames.
Federer and Stepanek have met on 14 separate occasions over the past 12 years on the professional circuit. Out of those fourteen contests, Stepanek has only ever managed two victories against the Swiss No. 2, the last of which came on the clay courts in Rome in 2008. His only other win came six years prior to that, in their first ever meeting on the tour. Eight of Federer’s twelve victories over Stepanek have come on hard court surfaces, while the Czech has never managed his own win over Roger on that particular surface. The 32 year old has won their last eight consecutive encounters, stretching back over six years and will be looking to add another win to that record tomorrow afternoon.
Prediction: Roger Federer in Straight Sets