Thu, Jul 10, 2003 - Page 20 News List

Swiss mountains no obstacle as Federer fights on

AP , GSTAAD, SWITZERLAND

Newly crowned Wimbledon champion Roger Federer overcame fatigue, high altitude, a change to clay and Spanish qualifier Marc Lopez to win 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-3 on Tuesday in the Swiss Open.

Federer had only three hours sleep between Sunday and Monday after becoming the first Swiss man to win a Grand Slam. And with a two-week grasscourt tournament in his legs and playing at 1,050m above sea level in the Alpine resort, the 21-year-old soon began to puff, surrendering the second set before digging deep.

"I have to thank the crowd for its support today. I really needed it," top-seeded Federer said. "In view of the state I'm in, I'm not sure what I can expect here. I'll just have to go match by match and hope for the best."

Second-seeded Rainer Schuettler downed Wayne Arthurs 6-2, 6-3, and seventh-seeded Alex Corretja launched the defense of his title with an easy 6-1, 6-2 victory over John van Lottum.

Federer broke Lopez at 3-2 in the first two sets, and looked set to cruise home, but tiredness set it. Federer, who was taking quick breaks to sit in the linesman's chair each time Lopez selected his serving balls, began rushing things on the court.

Comfortably up 5-4 with two match points, Federer double-faulted then botched an easy forehand shot. The Spaniard, allowed back into the game, made the most of his first break point of the match to even the score to 5-5 with a well-placed return.

With Federer starting to struggle with his serve -- his first-serve average dropped to 37 percent in the second -- Lopez had little trouble forcing, then winning the tiebreak.

Unwilling to let his home crowd down, Federer made the decisive break in the third for 5-3 on forehand winners.

It is Federer's sixth appearance in Gstaad, and he will have to defy history again to pass the second round for the first time. He next meets Jean-Rene Lisnard of France.

Corretja's auspicious start recalled his stroll through the tournament last year without dropping a set until beating Gaston Gaudio in a three-set final.

Corretja returned to the ATP circuit this week with a new coach, Enrique "Bebe" Perez, after ending an 18-year partnership with Javier Duarte. Corretja also ended his working relationship with his brother Sergio.

"We both would have loved to have finished our careers together but decided this was the best solution," the three-time Swiss Open champion said. "But we will remain very close. We have a very strong personal relationship. Javier is more than a coach to me. He is like an older brother. But Bebe also knows me very well. I think at this point he's going to be the person who can help me most."s

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