It was only his sixth victory since the Australian Open but Roger Federer was all smiles yesterday after beating Benjamin Becker 6-2, 7-6 in his opening match at the Madrid Masters. The Swiss has been struggling for form after illness hampered his spring preparations and admits that he needs more matches under his belt before starting the defence of his title at the French Open, which begins in just 11 days' time.
There did not appear to be much wrong with the world No 1's game as he took just 81 minutes to dispose of his German opponent. Federer quickly found a good rhythm and never looked in danger of being broken. Although sometimes tentative, he struck his ground strokes well, cutting down on the errors that had littered some of his recent matches, and volleyed with his usual assurance.
"I was very happy with the match," he said. "It was clean from the start to the finish. It was good to come through a match like that and finish it off in the tie-breaker."
Federer, who now plays Stanislas Wawrinka or Leonardo Mayer, has not won more than two matches in a row at any of the four tournaments in which he has competed since the Australian Open, where he played what he considered to be some of the best tennis of his career.
Andy Murray will play Juan Ignacio Chela in his opening match today after the 30-year-old Argentine's first-round contest lasted only two games before his opponent, Pablo Cuevas, retired hurt. Murray has won four of his five matches against Chela, but the world No 51 is a useful performer on clay and has climbed back up the rankings after dropping out of the top 200 last year through injury.