Roger Federer survived a big upset bid in his opening match at the Miami Open on Saturday, rallying from a set down—and nearly a break down in the second set—to edge Radu Albot, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3.
Albot, who captured the first ATP title of his career just a few weeks ago in Delray Beach, came into Miami on a career-high ranking of No. 46—and the Moldovan came out swinging against Federer, breaking him in the first game of the match and, after fighting off four break points in his own first service game, riding that break of serve until he pocketed the first set against the World No. 5, 6-4.
There was more danger to come—Albot had break point at 3-all in the second set, and after Federer saved it and snuck out the set, 7-5, the Moldovan brought up another break point at 3-all in the third.
But Federer served up a big ace out wide to save that one, held for 4-3, got the critical break for 5-3 then served it out, a long Albot forehand giving the Swiss victory after two hours and eight minutes.
“I was very much tested by Albot. It wasn’t easy,” Federer said after the match. “He got off to a good start and I struggled early on with decision-making and just getting used to the stadium, I guess, and the conditons, but it was the same for him, really, so no excuse there. But it was just difficult.
“I felt the first couple of sets there were like seven important shots or points to be played, and they all seemed to go his way, and I felt like that’s why he was in the lead, really, until 6-4 4-all. He’s had a good last few weeks and you could feel it. He has a great attitude and knows what he wants to do out there. It felt like he was the guy with the clear plan, and I didn’t have it - I also started forgetting things my coach told me. It got really complicated in my head. But I played some good tennis at the end.”
Federer struggled with unforced errors throughout the match, particularly off the ground—he had 24 winners to 39 unforced errors on his groundstrokes (but he served 14 aces to just two double faults).
The Swiss says a long match at the new Miami Open courts will help him moving forward: “Today’s match really helped because I spent a lot of time on the court and got used to the conditions. I don’t think it’s necessarily slow, but I think the ball travels through the air slower and the kicker doesn’t kick as much as it did in Indian Wells. These sudden changes are already tricky for every player, but especially for those who really got used to the conditions in Indian Wells the last few weeks.”
A three-time champion at the Miami Open in 2005, 2006 and 2017, Federer improved to 51-14 in his career at the Masters 1000 event. Only Andre Agassi has more career match wins here (61).
Albot, meanwhile, fell to 0-5 in his career against Top 10 opponents (his best win to date came against a No. 12-ranked Pablo Carreno Busta in the first round of Wimbledon last summer).
Awaiting Federer in the third round won’t be his good friend and longtime rival Stan Wawrinka, it’ll be Filip Krajinovic, who battled past the No. 30 seed in a two-hour, 39-minute marathon, 5-7, 6-2, 7-6(5).
Krajinovic rallied from 3-1 down in the third and twice served to stay in the match to beat Wawrinka.
Federer has beaten Krajinovic in both of their previous meetings, both last year, a routine 6-2, 6-1 victory in the third round of Indian Wells and a 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 slugfest in the first round of Basel.
“I practiced with Filip in Australia as well, and he played very well against me there,” Federer said. “I really like his game. He takes the ball early, he can keep the ball in play, he can take the backhand down the line and he’s very steady. He’s also very talented. So he’s a very dangerous player.
“Plus he beat Stan today, so I’m sure he’s ready.”