Top two look far from invincible in Paris
Originally published on: 26/02/10 11:49
Five months on from his Roland Garros victory, Roger Federer’s return to Paris has not exactly gone according to plan.
The world No.1 has crashed out of the BNP Paribas Masters 1000 in his opening match to Julien Benneteau, losing 3-6 7-6(4) 6-4 to the Frenchman to continue a barren run at the final regular-season tournament.
The Swiss has rarely enjoyed much success at this tournament, having never managed to get beyond the last eight, but appeared to be cruising as he coasted through the first set.
But the Frenchman stayed with the fifteen-time Grand Slam champion, clinching the tie-break to take the match into a decider.
Backed by a vocal home crowd, the 27-year-old sealed an early break and hit an ace on his first match point, collapsing to his knees in tears.
Afterwards, a relaxed Federer blamed a lack of practice time after playing in the final of the Swiss Indoors in Basel only three days earlier, where he lost to Novak Djokovic.
“It wasn’t a bad performance,” he said. “I definitely had chances, but I missed them.”
He will hope that the misses – and unforced errors throughout the match – do not follow him to London. The Swiss will certainly now have time on his side to prepare for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, which begin a week on Sunday.
Earlier, world No.2 Rafael Nadal saved five match points against fellow Spaniard Nicolas Almagro before booking his place in the third round.
In a match lasting more than three hours, a visibly frustrated Almagro suffered from cramp in the third set but still served for the match at 5-3 before Nadal fought back for a 3-6 7-6(2) 7-5 win.
“I am very lucky to be in the next round,” admitted Nadal, who is without a title since the Rome Masters back in May. “I played badly today.”