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Federer Opens Title Defence; Monaco, Haas Advance

Madrid, Spain

Haas© Getty ImagesTommy Haas cruised past Andreas Seppi in the first round.

Playing his first match in eight weeks, Roger Federer opened his title defence at the Mutua Madrid Open with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Radek Stepanek on Tuesday.

The Swiss advanced to a third-round meeting with either Kei Nishikori or Viktor Troicki as he won his first clay-court match of the season in 81 minutes. His armour was only dented once, as he was broken when serving for the match at 5-2, but he hit back in the following game to claim victory. It was his 12th win in 14 meetings with Stepanek.

"I didn't think I played incredible, but that's not what I was expecting myself to do here. But I didn't play bad, either," said Federer. "So I'm very happy with how things went today. Stepanek is a player who can cause a lot of difficulties in the game. He has caused me difficulties in the past. Today that wasn't the case. I thought I was pretty much in control."

The 31-year-old Federer has a 35-6 record in Madrid, beating Tomas Berdych in the 2012 final to win the title for the third time. The Basel native is chasing his 22nd ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title this week, which would see him draw level with leader Rafael Nadal.

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World No. 19 Juan Monaco ousted ninth seed Janko Tipsarevic as he continued to turn around a slow start to the season with strong clay-court results. The Argentine broke serve three times and won 70 per cent of points on serve as he prevailed 7-6(5), 6-3 in one hour and 41 minutes.

Monaco went 3-6 during the first three months of the season, before reaching the semi-finals in Houston (l. to Isner). Since then, he has featured in the third round in Monte-Carlo, where he pushed Novak Djokovic to three sets, and the quarter-finals in Barcelona (l. to Almagro).

Any concerns that 35-year-old Tommy Haas may be lacking in energy after his title run at the BMW Open in Munich last week were swiftly dismissed as the German swept past Andreas Seppi 6-1, 6-2 in just 51 minutes. The 13th seed lost only 11 points on serve as he set a second-round match-up with Tommy Robredo. The Spanish wild card defeated Marcos Baghdatis 6-4, 6-2.

The other ATP World Tour winner from last week, Stanislas Wawrinka, also made a strong start, beating Romanian wild card Marius Copil 6-4, 6-4 in 61 minutes. Wawrinka lifted his first trophy of the season at the Portugal Open in Oeiras (d. Ferrer) and is bidding to get past the third round in Madrid for the first time in seven visits.

Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny saved three match points as he fought back in a gripping finale against Fabio Fognini, edging the Italian 7-6(4), 2-6, 7-6(5) in two hours and 25 minutes. Fognini served for the match at 5-4, 40/0, but was thwarted as Youzhny reeled off five straight points. The Russian then squandered two match points in the 12th game before claiming victory in the tie-break, but not before surrendering a 5-1 lead and recovering to win the final two points.

Benoit Paire earned a second-round clash with Rafael Nadal after beating qualifier Joao Souza 6-1, 7-6(0). The Frenchman challenged Nadal for the first time two weeks ago in Barcelona, falling in straight sets.

Spain’s Daniel Gimeno Traver recorded the third Top 10 win of his career as he upset No. 9-ranked Richard Gasquet 7-5, 3-6, 6-4 in two hours and 20 minutes. World No. 52 Gimeno-Traver won back-to-back matches for the first time since reaching the quarter-finals in Vina del Mar in February, and he did so against one of the tour’s most consistent performers in 2013. While Gimeno-Traver had compiled a 7-12 record coming into Madrid, Gasquet had won 23 matches.

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