Rome: Roger Federer joined Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray in reaching the third round of the Rome Masters yesterday with the Swiss admitting that he was fully expecting to lose against Alexander Zverev.
Roger Federer returns during his win over Alexander Zverev of Germany in the second round clash of Rome Masters in Rome yesterday. Pic/Getty Images
“I’m cautious but extremely happy— I was expecting to lose in straight sets,” admitted the 17-time Grand Slam champion, who withdrew last week from Madrid with back pain. That was the mindset going in. To win in straights is actually a really big surprise to me. I only decided after the warm-up that I was actually going to play. For me it was a big match on many levels.”
First match in a month The 89-minute match was the first for the 34-year-old Swiss since losing a Monte Carlo quarter-final to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga nearly a month ago.
Even in victory Federer said that he would decide at the last minute whether he can take to the court against 13th seed Dominic Thiem, a 6-3, 6-2 winner over Joao Sousa.
“I don’t know how I’m going to feel. I hope (I can play). I’m literally going practice after practices. It’s baby steps right now. “So to even think of tomorrow is already a big ask.”
Djokovic and number two Murray produced no-drama victories, with the Serb beating Stephane Robert 7-5, 7-5 while Murray put out Kazakh Mikhail Kukushkin 6-3, 6-3.
Federer is playing here for the 16th time as he seeks his first Rome title. The Swiss has finished runner-up four times, most recently last year against Djokovic.
Rome marks only the fourth tournament of the season for Federer, who underwent knee surgery in early February, the first operation of his career. Victory over Zverev sent Federer’s record in 2016 to 11-3.
Zverev, aged 19 and ranked 44th, could not have asked for a more challenging Rome debut as he faced off against his