Roger Federer blamed rustiness rather than the joys of becoming a new father after failing to hit top form when beating Frederic Niemeyer 7-6, 6-4 to reach the third round of the Montreal Masters yesterday.
In his first match since lifting a record 15th grand slam singles title at Wimbledon, much has changed in a few weeks for Federer, who arrived in Montreal with his wife Mirka, new born twin daughters Charlene Riva and Myla Rose and a nanny in tow.
Ranked 487th, Canadian Niemeyer had hoped a few sleepless nights would help level the odds against the world No 1. But an opponent on nappy duty and the backing of a centre-court crowd of 11,000 could not save the 33-year-old in his final appearance at the tournament before retiring.
"I was happy with that performance," Federer said after launching his hardcourt campaign with his 20th straight win. "After five, six weeks without a match you're just a little bit slow on your reaction, your return. Mirka is great, she handles it all well. Me too, I'm quite laid back and hands on [with the kids]. It seems to be working so far."
He added: "Today all-in-all I thought it was OK. I wish I could have got some more balls back on the return but that again was due to him serving well."
While Federer declared himself mostly satisfied with his performance there was none of the brilliance that swept him to back-to-back grand slam wins at Roland Garros and Wimbledon. Throughout the 85-minute match Federer struggled for form, spraying forehands wide and long and slamming routine overheads into the net.
The first set failed to produce a break, Federer taking it in a tie-break 7-3. Niemeyer continued to battle in the second until Federer finally wore down the Canadian, earning the only break of the match to go 4-3 ahead before wrapping up proceedings.
Venus Williams made easy progress into the third round of the Western & Southern Financial Group Women's Open in Cincinnati yesterday.
The world No 3, who was a losing finalist recently at the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford in California, as well as at Wimbledon earlier in the summer, had no problems against Olga Govortsova as she came through comfortably 6-2, 6-2.
The world No 1 and top seed Dinara Safina also won her match against Roberta Vinci of Italy 2-6, 7-5, 6-4, but fellow Russian and 10th seed Nadia Petrova was not so lucky. Petrova lost in straight sets to Alona Bondarenko of Ukraine 6-2, 6-3.
Svetlana Kuznetsova was given a tough test by Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic but eventually won 6-3, 6-7, 7-6 in a match which lasted two hours and 18 minutes.Reuse content