Federer cruises in return to action
Originally published on: 07/05/13 00:00
The defending champion, who has not played since his quarter-final defeat to Rafael Nadal at the BNP Paribas Open in March, showed no signs of rustiness as he cruised to a 6-3 6-3 victory.
Stepanek, meanwhile, is on the comeback from neck surgery in January. He had not beaten Federer in his seven previous meetings but both career victories (from 13 matches) against the Swiss had come on clay.
However, Federer, who arrived in the Spanish capital with a 13-4 match record this season, looked instantly at ease on the red dirt and he barely made it out of second gear as he wrapped up the opening set before grabbing an early lead in the second.
Although he squandered five match points as Stepanek broke back late in the second set, it merely delayed the inevitable as Federer booked his place in the third round, where he will face either Kei Nishikori or Viktor Troicki.
"I don't think I served amazing or played incredible from the baseline but overall I am very happy," Federer told Sky Sports. "It was a pretty clean match. I am happy with my first match back."
Of his eight-week break from the tour, Federer said: "I hope this is going to be refreshing for me. I haven't been home in Switzerland for seven straight weeks since, I don't know, 1997, so it has been a long time coming for me. I chose to do that without being injured so I am very fortunate."