World No. 3 Roger Federer cast aside bad memories to defeat Argentina’s Juan Martin Del Potro 6-3, 7-5 at the Cincinnati Open on Tuesday.
Del Potro had upset Federer in the 2009 US Open final before injuries set back his career, but the Swiss looked at his comfortable best in the first set.
It was a much closer encounter in the second set which was played to serve until Federer broke to go 6-5 up.
Federer had missed out on six break points prior to winning that game. He then held serve to go through to face American James Blake.
“I expected a tough match with Juan Martin for obvious reasons, and it went better than I thought,” a relaxed Federer said.
“I thought I played a wonderful first set and a very good second set, too. That was obviously enough tonight. I don’t think I really allowed Juan Martin to be able to play the game he usually plays,” he added.
“It’s quick conditions, so you’re never going to maybe find the rhythm like you would on a slower court, but I was able to mix it up well, I served well, and did all the right things tonight,” he said.
Del Potro’s chances of repeating his success of 2009 in New York this year look slim, but he was pleased that his many physical problems, including a bad wrist injury, seem to be behind him.
“I’m much better than I expected to be at this stage. I don’t have any pain, no dangerous pain. My wrist is OK and I can play on every surface,” the Argentine said. “It is not easy for me, but I’m close to what is my favorite tournament and I will be ready for a fight in New York.”
France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga looked back to full fitness, while Czechs Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek came through their first tests.
Wimbledon semi-finalist Tsonga defeated Croat Marin Cilic 6-3, 6-4 in the opening round, dropping just six points on serve and hitting nine aces.
Tsonga had suffered an arm injury that caused him to withdraw during his semi-final against Serbia’s Novak Djokovic at the Montreal Masters last week, but he looked to be striking the ball without any hindrance on Tuesday.
“I didn’t play the last two days because of my arm, and this morning at the warm-up I was feeling really good. It was a really fluid match. Everything was easy for me today, including my serve,” Tsonga said.
Berdych, the eighth seed, breezed through his second-round match against Argentine Juan Monaco in straight sets 7-6 (7-2), 6-0, winning 83 percent of first-serve points.
Compatriot Stepanek, who had to qualify, came out on top against big-serving American John Isner 7-5, 5-7, 7-6 (7-4) in a tough first-round encounter lasting 2 hours and 46 minutes.
Stepanek triumphed, despite 21 aces from Isner, and the Czech saved three break points in the final set.
REUTERS, MASON, OHIO
Former world No. 1 Serena Williams continued her return to form with a convincing 6-3, 7-6 (7-5) victory over Czech Lucie Hradecka in the first round of the Cincinnati Open on Tuesday, but showed signs of fatigue in her second set.
Williams, who clinched the Toronto Cup on Sunday, is looking for her third tournament win since coming back from an 11-month injury lay-off in June.
The American will next face the woman she beat in Sunday’s final — Australian Samantha Stosur — in the second round.
Tenth-seeded Stosur brushed aside Eleni Daniilidou of Greece 6-3, 6-1 in her opening match.