Miami: Federer d. Rochus

Wednesday, March 30, 2011 /by

201103300045027393556-p2@stats_com Earlier rain interruptions and the preceding Maria Sharapova-Alexandra Dulgheru match that lasted three hours and 28 minutes meant that Roger Federer and Olivier Rochus didn’t get onto the Stadium court at the Sony Ericsson Open until well after midnight on Wednesday morning.

Federer was a bit of a nighthawk in his younger days so probably he wasn’t unduly concerned about the 12:36 a.m. start time. That showed in the final score, a comprehensive 6-3, 6-1 win over the diminutive, 30-year-old Belgian.

The match was essentially a foregone conclusion once Federer broke serve in the fourth game of the opening set to lead 3-1. Service breaks in the first, third and seventh games of the second set meant that he was able to wrap up the match and get off the court in a not-too-taxing 52 minutes.

Rochus, a qualifier who came in at No. 89 after winning a Challenger in Guadeloupe two weeks ago, practiced on the court before Tuesday’s  11 a.m. matches to get a feel for the Stadium. It was a commendable attempt to prepare for his eighth meeting with his childhood friend and rival, but it didn’t seem to help, as he was never able to trouble Federer and is still winless against the Swiss.

The final statistics tell the tale of what a clinical exhibition it was by the world No. 3—he struck 32 winners to just 12 unforced errors. As a result, the match was mercifully short, allowing many weary spectators to get out of the Stadium just before 1:30 a.m.

Federer will now face Gilles Simon in the quarterfinals on Thursday. That match will create a lot of interest because the Frenchman holds a 2-1 edge in their head-to-head; the lone win for Federer coming at this year’s Australian Open, when he managed to hold on for a thrilling 6-2, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3 victory. As that match unfolded, there was a sense that Federer had not forgotten his two losses to Simon in Toronto and Shanghai in 2008, and that they played on his mind.

The much more uneventful Rochus match couldn’t have gone smoother from Federer’s point of view. Maybe his performance was helped by his relaxed attitude about going on court so late. Before it started, he joked with umpire Lars Graff, “still three sets?”

—Tom Tebbutt

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