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Federer Returns To Action With Comfortable Win

Basel, Switzerland

Florent Serra© Getty ImagesFlorent Serra improved to a 24-28 season record with victory over Ivo Karlovic on Monday.

ATP World Tour No. 1 Roger Federer made a strong return to the tour with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Belgian qualifier Olivier Rochus Monday in the first round of the Swiss Indoors Basel, where he is three-time defending champion.

The Basel native, who is making his 10th appearance at the ATP World Tour 500 tennis tournament, had not played a match since Switzerland’s Davis Cup World Group play-off victory over Italy in mid-September, but produced a solid display as he recorded his seventh win in seven meetings against recent Stockholm finalist Rochus. The right-hander struck 12 aces and won 86 per cent of points on his first serve, while also converting both break points he created in the 76-minute match.

Victory marked Federer’s 30th match win (30-6 record) at his hometown event. He reached back-to-back finals in 2000 (l. to Enqvist) and ‘01 (l. to Henman), before clinching the title for the first time in ‘06 (d. Gonzalez). He then followed with successive victories in 2007 (d. Nieminen) and last year (d. Nalbandian).

Federer, who became father to twin girls over the summer, is already assured of his place at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals following a stellar season that has seen him reach the finals of all four Grand Slams, winning the titles at Roland Garros (d. Soderling) and Wimbledon (d. Roddick). The 28 year old has won 35 of his past 37 matches, including finishing runner-up to Juan Martin del Potro at the US Open in his last tournament outing.

Federer next will face Italian Andreas Seppi, who bounced back from a first-round loss at last week’s Bank Austria TennisTrophy in Vienna by defeating Swiss wild card Stephane Bohli 4-6, 6-1, 7-5 in a match featuring nine service breaks. World No. 51 Seppi, a semi-finalist at the Serbia Open 2009 (l. to Djokovic) and the ATP Studena Croatia Open (l. to Ferrero) earlier in the season, improved to a 23-29 mark.

World No. 14 Radek Stepanek needed just 68 minutes to dismiss German Rainer Schuettler 6-2, 6-0 on his main-draw debut in Basel. The Czech player saved all five break points he faced and was potent on his own opportunities, converting five of 11 chances in the pair’s eighth meeting (Stepenak leads 6-2).

The 30 year old is coming off his sixth ATP World Tour quarter-final showing of the season at the Bank Austria TennisTrophy in Vienna, where he fell to eventual champion Jurgen Melzer. Earlier in the season he won two ATP World Tour titles at the Brisbane International (d. Verdasco) and the SAP Open (d. Fish).

Stepanek next will face French lucky loser Florent Serra, a replacement for Melzer, who withstood 28 aces from the racquet of Ivo Karlovic of Croatia for a 7-6(5), 6-4 victory in 78 minutes. 

The No. 71-ranked Serra, runner-up to Juan Carlos Ferrero at the Grand Prix Hassan II in Casablanca, won 81 per cent of service points and saved both break points he faced to improve to a 24-28 match record on the year.  Karlovic, who beat Serra 6-4, 6-4 in April at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters and advanced to the 2007 Basel semi-finals, dropped to a 22-22 season record.

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