Phau falls, Clément awaits

It was Federer’s first clay-court win of the  season, and most would agree that it was later than expected.

Roger notched up a 6-3, 6-4 victory over the #140 ranked Bjorn Phau in the 2nd Round of the Estoril Open and thus has progressed to the Quarter Finals, three victories away from his first title since the Australian Open in January.

Incredible tennis wasn’t required and, admittedly, wasn’t on offer. The final winner/unforced error tally stood at 19/34 and 11/47 for Roger and Phau, respectively. Phau’s errors came in handy when Roger won five points in a row after being down 0-40 on his serve when serving for the first set; the final three being won as a result of errors from the opponent.

Yet as we know rustiness can be shaken off with continued play and such a small tournament is the best possible platform for it. Federer seemed aware from this when he said; “This win was not always beautiful but it doesn’t matter. I’m sure my best tennis is not far away.”

“There is always pressure in the first match, it doesn’t matter who it’s against. The first round in any event is never easy.”

Roger’s next opponent, the Frenchman Arnaud Clément, is likely to offer up more of a challenge. Just like Phau before him, he has enjoyed past victories – three of them, in fact – over the World #1, and just like Phau the last of them was over nine years ago; in the 3rd Round of the 2001 Australian Open as Clément enjoyed a run to the final.

Discounting the two good victories that led him to this point, the 32-year-old has lately been suffering some discouraging results, most recently a straight-set defeat against the World #781 Peter Torebko in the first round of Tunis. Yet Clement is no mental midget, and marked down his 300th career win by moving into the quarters (talking of career wins – Fed is inching closer to his 700th at 692). A former Top 10 player, he is also likely to draw encouragement from his past victories over Roger, however long ago they were, and the notion that his opponent is not yet hitting top form.

Looking ahead, another victory would take Federer into the semis, where he would face the winner of a match between Albert Montañés and Pablo Cuevas. Let’s hope over the next few days we’ll see more headlines, as there were today, proclaiming, ‘Federer finds his clay momentum.’ After the doom and gloom of the last couple of months, it certainly makes for a nice change!

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