Roger Federer got off to a solid start in the Dubai Duty Free Championships, defeating Frenchman Michael Llodra 6-0 7-6(6) in 67 minutes. It was Federer's first match since he won his 71st career title in Rotterdam a week and a half ago. Overall, he played as well as you would expect him to in an early round, and he was facing a tough opponent in Llodra, who won the Rotterdam doubles title with Nenad Zimonjic, as well as making the final of the tournament in Marseille last week.
Roger won the first set very fast - almost too fast - in 17 minutes. He was very sharp from the baseline and Llodra - utilizing the rarely-used serve and volley tactic, was getting beaten consistently on perfect passing shots from both forehand and backhand wings. Roger looked as if the tennis ball were the size of a basketball and Llodra looked completely lost and rushed - a typical feeling when playing Federer at his supreme best. The second set was much closer. Llodra woke up from his first set snooze and started playing much better. In my estimation, Roger already had gotten what he wanted out of the match and seemed to be coasting to a tiebreak. Llodra was serving very well and he was even holding his own from the back of the court, but Roger's intensity was down and he was not exerting much energy. The 2nd did go to a tiebreak in which Llodra had a set point but in the end, Roger won it 8-6.
It was a solid win for Federer, and it was a very fun match to watch. The courts are very fast in Dubai and that suits Fed's game perfectly, and Llodra also likes quick courts that adapt well to his unpredictable, serve and volley playing style. Both men produced some incredible shots throughout the match that had the crowd jumping out of their seats in amazement. Perhaps the courts looked quicker than they actually were because both Roger and Michael were taking the ball early and hitting with little spin and plenty of pace. Roger always makes the game look effortless but I thought he was very fluid with his movement (continuing from last week) and was sharp from the ground. He only served at 46% for the match but it was not a worry as his second serve was very unpredictable. In review, I can say that the match was a fun, clean-hitting affair that we need to see more of in tennis these days. The match featured variety and both men (Llodra especially) really seemed to be enjoying themselves. I think the match was more about the journey than it was the destination. Llodra knew he had little chance of winning so he gave his best effort and in turn, he produced his best tennis in the second set, which was a joy for all. It's a shame that Fed and Llodra have only met once before this, because they are a great match-up for each other.
Fed now plays Feliciano Lopez in the 2nd round. Lopez beat Nicolas Mahut 64 64. Roger should not have any trouble with the Spaniard on these fast courts. Lopez plays a more modern style of game than Llodra does but like Llodra, he looks to attack the net a lot and can be dangerous. Expect another Federer straight sets win, though Federer said he won't be taking Lopez lightly. A man as professional as Roger would never take anyone lightly.
In the rest of the day's action, #3 seed Andy Murray had a tough 3-setter against Michael Berrer but prevailed in the end 6-4 in the 3rd. Del Potro took down Dolgopolov in two tight sets, Tsonga overcame Baghdatis, Youzhny advanced over Gasquet when the Frenchman retired, and in a positive sign for the Swiss, Marco Chiudinelli, the #3 Swiss player, defeated Nikolay Davydenko 64 57 64. Berdych, Tipsarevic, Sergiy Stakhovsky, and Flavio Cipolla also advanced.