Roger Federer made an impressive return to clay by easing past Richard Gasquet to reach the last 16 of the Madrid Open on Tuesday, while Novak Djokovic also breezed through with a straight sets win over American Taylor Fritz. Twenty-time Grand Slam winner Federer took just 52 minutes to see off Frenchman Gasquet 6-2 6-3 in what was his first match on clay in three years after skipping the 2017 and 2018 seasons on the surface to manage a knee injury.
“I would have always felt regrets not being on the clay in 2019 because my knee problem is far enough away now. I grew up on this surface, so I feel comfortable on it,” the 37-year-old Federer told reporters.
“It feels good to be back on the clay now and I enjoy it. Some of these rallies where you get pushed to the side, you slide, you hit the ball, you slide, you hit the ball, you come back into it, then you can defend in a different manner than you do on the hard courts, or on the grass.”
World number one and Australian Open champion Djokovic needed only one hour and five minutes to win 6-4 6-2 against 21-year-old qualifier Fritz, ranked 57th in the world, who he also beat in straight sets at the Monte Carlo Masters last month.
Last year’s runner-up Dominic Thiem reached the round of 16 without having to finish his match with American Reilly Opelka, who withdrew due to injury one game into the decider.
Austrian Thiem lost the first set 7-6(2) before winning the second 6-3 and was leading 1-0 when 21-year-old Opelka retired.
In first round matches, Monte Carlo Masters champion Fabio Fognini comfortably beat Britain’s Kyle Edmund 6-4 6-3 to reach the last 32, while Stan Wawrinka had a straight sets win over Pierre-Hugues Herbert.
Home favourite David Ferrer, who is playing the last tournament of his career, delayed his retirement by beating fellow Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut 6-4 4-6 6-4 and will play German hotshot Alexander Zverev in the round of 32.
Five-time Madrid champion Rafael Nadal enters the tournament on Wednesday when he faces Canada’s Felix Auger Aliassime in the second round bidding to reach the last 16.
Osaka survives test to reach last 16 in Madrid along with Halep
World number one Naomi Osaka withstood a firm test from unseeded Spaniard Sara Sorribes Tormo to reach the last 16 of the Madrid Open on Tuesday while Simona Halep also advanced but Angelique Kerber’s tournament was ended by an ankle injury.
The Japanese was taken to a tiebreak in the first set by Sorribes Tormo, ranked 73 in the world, and then lost the second before overpowering her opponent for a 7-6(5) 3-6 6-0 victory.
The Australian and U.S. Open champion, playing in her first tournament since being forced to withdraw from the Stuttgart semi-finals last month due to injury, struggled for consistency, frequently following impressive winners with unforced errors.
Osaka was broken to love in the second set, one of three service games she lost, but came roaring back in the decider to set up a last-16 meeting with Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus.
“This match was on my racket because she (Sorribes Tormo) doesn’t really have the game. She wasn’t going for winners and I felt either the point was ended by me making an unforced error, or me making a winner,” Osaka told a news conference.
“I feel like in the first set, I got a bit lucky there. In the second set I got a little bit unfocused and then in the third set I went zombie mode and then just thought of everything that I had to do to win.”
Romania’s twice Madrid winner Halep beat Britain’s Johanna Konta 7-5 6-1 and will play Viktoria Kuzmova in the next round, while France’s Caroline Garcia set up a meeting with last year’s champion Petra Kvitova after beating Sorana Cirstea 6-4 3-6 6-1.
Wimbledon champion Kerber had to return home to Germany for medical treatment after hurting her ankle in a practice session ahead of her match with Petra Martic, who got a walkover into the round of 16 where she faces fellow Croat Donna Vekic.