DOHA: Roger Federer, aiming to regain a title he last won four years ago, reached the quarter-finals of the Qatar Open with a performance which for the second successive day suggested he is starting the new season well rested and in fine shape.
The Grand Slam record-breaker won 6-2, 6-4 against Evgeny Korolev, a young and rising Russian on the verge of the world’s top 50 who hit ambitiously but looked capable of achieving more than he actually did.
Federer contained him well, moved excellently, prevented his inexperienced opponent from feeling comfortable, and from time to time had moments of sublime attacking, which helped maintain an intimidating aura.
“This was a more dangerous match than my first one because he is a big ball striker and plays aggressive on forehand and backhand,” Federer said.
“Conditions were difficult today, it was very slow out there and I had to be patient and grind it out, so I was happy with the way I adapted and with the way the match went.”
Federer was helped by several moments when Korolev beat himself – perhaps overly aware of Federer’s reputation – notably after he broke the great man’s serve to get back to 2-3, only to play a poor service game himself.
Then unaccountably Korolev failed to appeal against a line call on the opening point of the final game, when he was serving to save the match.
Hawkeye was showing as on the line a drive which had been called out, but the Russian missed his chance to get the decision overturned.
By contrast at 15-30 Federer appealed against another ‘out’ call, on his own drive this time, and got it reversed, taking the score to 15-40 and giving him two match points.
Korolev fought back bravely and saved both of them but still lost that game and the match. Had he appealed, as Federer did, he should have reached 5-5 with all to play for.
Federer is seeded to play a final on Saturday against his greatest rival, Rafael Nadal, who looked particularly pumped up after dismissing Potito Starace, a former top 30 player from Italy, by 6-2, 6-2.