Roger Federer showed shreds of evidence of Stefan Edberg’s influence as he got his season under way, advancing to the Brisbane International quarter-finals with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Jarkko Nieminen yesterday.
Federer worked briefly with Edberg in the off-season and will again use the six-time major winner as a coach in Melbourne as he tries to end his Grand Slam drought at the Australian Open later this month.
The 32-year-old Swiss star is not suddenly reinforcing a serve-volley mindset, but he did venture to the net with good effect in his second-round match against Nieminen — he had a first-round bye — as he honed certain parts of his game.
“I’ve been serving OK, my forehand is going well, my movement is OK, I’m seeing the ball OK,” said Federer, who won the last of his 17 Grand Slam titles at Wimbledon in 2012. “I expect to play a bit better in the next match, even though today was already very good for a first match in so many weeks.”
After a day of injury withdrawals in the women’s draw, second seed Victoria Azarenka finished off the night session with a 6-3, 6-1 win over Casey Dellacqua to ensure the top five seeds reached the quarter-finals.
Top seed Federer, in the decisive game of the first set, rallied from 40-0 down and won the next five points to break for a 3-2 lead. He started with a pinpoint lob that caught the baseline and followed it up with a sharp, angled volley that turned the momentum.
He broke serve twice in the first three games of the second set and cruised to a comfortable win.
Awaiting Federer in the quarter-finals is Australia’s Marinko Matosevic, who beat Sam Querrey of the US 5-7, 7-6 (7/3), 6-4.
Second seed Kei Nishikori of Japan eased to a 6-2, 6-2 win over Matthew Ebden of Australia to set up a quarter-final against Marin Cilic of Croatia.
Cilic, in his second tournament following a four-month ban for testing positive for a banned stimulant in May, had a 7-5, 7-5 win over fifth seed Grigor Dimitrov, a Brisbane finalist last year.
Cilic, who reached a career-high No. 9 in 2010, but finished last season at No. 37, said playing again “feels like a new beginning for me.”
“I’m thinking about everything around myself in a different perspective,” he said. “I’m excited to be in the season and to play, to be back on the tour after all that misery last year.”
Azarenka’s match was the only women’s second-rounder to go the distance yesterday. She next plays Stefanie Voegele of Switzerland, who advanced when Wimbledon finalist Sabine Lisicki pulled out before their match with a stomach illness.
Maria Sharapova got a walkover into the quarter-finals when Australian teenager Ashleigh Barty withdrew and fifth seed Angelique Kerber progressed when Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia retired in the second set with a left-leg injury. Kerber was leading 6-2, 4-3 against last year’s runner-up.
In the women’s doubles quarter-finals, Taiwan’s Chan Hao-ching and her partner, Liezel Huber of the US, the No. 4 seeds, were beaten 6-4, 6-4 by Mandy Minella of Luxembourg and Chanelle Scheepers of South Africa.
Additional reporting by staff writer