Federer beats Llodra in Dubai
Roger Federer won an unusual match of two halves as he beat Michael Llodra 6-0 7-6(8) to reach the second round at ATP Dubai.
The Swiss blitzed his French opponent in a first set which lasted just 17 minutes, only for Llodra to give a far more respectable account of himself in the second set, which went with serve the whole way.
Federer will now face Feliciano Lopez in the next round after the Spaniard beat France’s Nicolas Mahut 6-4 6-4.
The only previous time these two had met – in 2010 at the Toronto Masters – Federer also won in straight sets 76-(2) 6-3, but even he must have been surprised by the ease with which he swept aside a jaded Llodra in the first set.
The Frenchman did not even score his first point until the third game, and would go on to score just six more in the rest of the set.
Llodra, ranked 40th in the world, reached the final in Marseille on Sunday, and he gave a far truer display of the form he is in as the match resumed for the second set.
The 31-year-old set the tone for his marked improvement by earning break points in each of the first two games of the set. Although he was unable to convert either of them, he managed to largely deny Federer any further opportunities to breaking his own serve.
Llodra even managed to lift his game to match some of the jaw-dropping winners that Federer was producing throughout, most notably a forehand from an acute angle that flew across Federer and dropped in.
The momentum of the tie-break swung from one player to the other, with both enjoying the advantage going into their serves only to see it snuffed out.
Federer eventually settled the matter with a disguised backhand on the run to the net to seal the breaker 8-6.
"It's always great to start off a tournament winning the first set 6-0. I don't know when that's the last time it's happened to me," the 16-times Grand Slam champion said.
Elsewhere, world number four Andy Murray was pushed hard by German qualifier Michael Berrer before winning 6-3 4-6 6-4 to book his place in the second round.
In form Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro, fresh off his success in Marseille, beat Ukraine's Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-3 7-6(5)