Dubai: Federer crossed the first hurdle with an intensive 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 win over Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber as the opening day witnessed the fall of two seeds in the men’s tournament at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, on Monday.
Eyeing his his eighth title in Dubai and an overall 100th career achievement, Federer battled past a gritty Kohlschreiber taking his all-time record to 14-0 against the German in tough windy centre court conditions.
Applauded by a packed Dubai Tennis Stadium, the 37-year-old from Basel set up a second-round meeting on Wednesday with Spain’s Fernando Verdasco to keep alive his hunt for a record eighth crown here.
“The mindset was to just somehow get through or somehow try not to lose. I know you always play to win, but sometimes in the wind, in a first round against Kohlschreiber, who can play very well in spells, especially in conditions like this, a lot of top-spin and spin. It’s just a match against the conditions really more than the opponent,” Federer said.
“I will see how it goes for me on Wednesday. I hope it’s not going to be as windy as tonight so we see good tennis or better tennis,” he hoped.
Federer was off to the best of starts, breaking his German opponent in the very first game to go 2-0 up.
It was business as usual for the Swiss ace as he wrapped up the set in exactly half an hour.
With the wind continuing to play a crucial role, it was Kohlschreiber who nudged ahead in the second with a break in the second game.
Federer broke back in the fifth, but the 2017 semi-finalist in Dubai broke right back to eventually serve out the set 6-3 in 40 minutes.
Federer said he is wary of his second-round opponent Verdasco.
“I played a few other lefties in the past, as well. I always thought it was hard to play left-handed servers because their strength goes into your weakness. For a one-handed backhand player, I have a great record against left-handed players,” the Swiss said.
“Obviously, Rafa [Nadal] has caused me most problems throughout. That’s because of the level of play he’s able to achieve. I don’t fear the lefties any more like I did in my teenage years, so that’s good. I think that’s because I was able to improve my game. Every player anyway tries to play to your weakness or tries to make you play bad. It’s going to be no different with Verdasco. I have to come out and play good and serve well and stay on top of the baseline, try to dominate from there,” he added.
Federer will get an off day on Tuesday, and then take on Verdasco — a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 winner in two hours against qualifier Thomas Fabbiano of Italy.
As Verdasco struggled in the opening match of the tournament, it was Nikoloz Basilashvili handing out a belated birthday gift to himself while knocking out an out-of-sorts fourth-seeded, Karen Khachanov 6-4, 6-1.
Seventh seed Milos Raonic was the second big casualty to fall on the first day when he lost 4-6, 7-5, 4-6 to Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff.
(Singles) Fernando Verdasco bt Thomas Fabbiano 3-6, 6-3, 6-2; Nikoloz Basilashvili bt Karen Khachanov 6-4, 6-1; Marton Fucsovics bt Damir Dzumhur 6-1, 7-6; Jan-Lennard Struff bt Milos Raonic 6-4, 5-7, 6-4; Roger Federer bt Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-4, 3-6, 6-1.
(Doubles) Leander Paes/Benoit Paire bt Rohan Bopanna/Divij Sharan 6-2, 7-6; Nokoloz Basillashvili/Matthew Ebden bt Raven Klaasen/Michael Venus 7-6, 3-6, 1-0 (3).