Playing his first match on clay in almost three years, Roger Federer made quick work of Richard Gasquet at the Mutua Madrid Open on Tuesday night, cruising past the Frenchman, 6-2, 6-3.
Federer’s last clay-court match came on May 12, 2016—a loss to Dominic Thiem in the third round of Rome—but the Swiss looked like he hadn’t missed a beat, racing out to a 3-0 lead in seven minutes and closing out the opening set in just 23 minutes after Gasquet missed a drop shot on set point.
After seven holds to start the second set, Federer pounced, ripping an overhead on the first break point of the set for a 5-3 lead and then comfortably serving it out to seal a 52-minute victory.
“I grew up on this surface, so I feel comfortable about that, but I think Richard was also maybe a little bit hurt from his match yesterday,” Federer told ATPTour.com. “It was nice seeing him back after so many months being away from the tour with injury. I think for both of us it was a special match.
“The crowd was great. It’s been wonderful. I think, always in Spain, I’ve been well-received over the last decade or so, just because of my rivalry with Rafa and all the other Spanish players, like Ferrer and so forth. So the people really know me. They followed my matches closely for so many years. They heard me speak, and they feel like they kind of know me. So then when I come to their markets, I think they appreciate it, and so do I. Full house, special atmosphere—so I appreciate it.”
Federer’s match stats for the day were very clean: 28 winners to 20 unforced errors. Almost half of his winners came from his forehand—13 of 28—but he also hit eight backhand winners and seven aces.
He was particularly impressive on shorter points, too, winning 44 of 67 points under five shots—or 66%. Gasquet actually had the edge on the longer points, winning 16 of 25 points five shots or longer—or 64%.
Federer has now beaten Gasquet 10 times in a row—he’s also won their last 22 sets in a row.
The No. 4-seeded Federer will now have a day off before playing his third-round match on Thursday. He’ll play either No. 15 seed Gael Monfils or Marton Fucsovics, who play each other on Wednesday.
Federer is a three-time champion in Madrid, winning it on hard in 2006, red clay in 2009 and blue clay in 2012. Ahead of this year’s event, he spoke about choosing this week for his clay-court comeback.
“Madrid was always a logical week to come back - it gave me enough time after Miami and enough time before Paris,” he said. “My expectations are low, though. I’m not saying that to put pressure on others, I’m just seeing it as it is. I don’t know where I’m at. If I can win the first round that’s nice, and that gives me some info. I just hope I don’t lose terribly in the first round—that’s my biggest fear!
“But it’s exciting times right now, and I’m very happy to be here in Madrid.”