After a smooth and efficient first round win over Benjamin Becker in Dubai, Roger Federer was made to work a little harder, beating veteran Radek Stepanek 6-2, 6-7(4), 6-3 in a thriller.
Things couldn't start much worse for Roger as he was broken in the opening service game of the match. Fortunately for him it all went uphill after that, as he broke right back and broke two more times to win the opener 6-2. He only hit one error after the first game, so he really tightened things up.
The opening game of the 2nd set went badly though and Stepanek broke. He would hold that break lead until 5-4, when Fed broke back and the set went to a breaker. Roger played a few loose points and Radek closed it out on his own serve.
In the third, Roger was broken in his first service game of a set for the third time in the match (I wonder if that has ever happened before?). Stepanek was serving for a 3-0 lead and had 4 separate game points, but Fed hung tough and fought hard to finally earn the break back with a sweet backhand return winner. Momentum was with him after that and he roared to a 5-2 lead, where he was serving for the match. On his first match point he hit an ace but it was called out, and lost the point. He would get broken, giving the Czech some hope, but Roger put the match to bed a few points later.
Overall it was a good match by both men. Roger was great in the first set and then Stepanek raised his level, playing nicely from the baseline and taking charge of a lot of the rallies. Fed almost seemed to lose his rhythm from the baseline and played more conservatively in sets two and three, which surely helped Steps implement his gameplan.
To see Roger fight back from a break down in the third set was good to see. Last year he wasn't winning these matches where he wasn't playing his best tennis throughout, but he found a way to get through this one. He played the same way under pressure he did in 2012, and we all know how great a year that was for him.
Next up is Lukas Rosol, known for upsetting Nadal at Wimbledon in 2012. A guy like him is always dangerous but Fed should have no problem getting by him, which would likely set up a semifinal with defending champion and world #2 Novak Djokovic.
Keep going Roger.