MADRID (AFP) – Roger Federer shook off a brief bout of pre-match jitters as he returned to clay after a three-year absence, posting a 6-2, 6-3 win over Richard Gasquet on Tuesday at the Madrid Open.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion needed just 52 minutes to brush Gasquet aside in the second round, but confessed he had to control his emotions during afternoon match strategy sessions with his team.
“I’m glad to be back,” said the three-time Madrid champion who last played on clay almost three years ago, losing to Dominic Thiem in the Rome third round on May 12, 2016.
Federer skipped the dirt for two full seasons to concentrate on his grass court form, winning Wimbledon in 2017.
He claimed the Madrid title in 2006, 2009, and 2012.
Novak Djokovic needed just 65 minutes to make a winning start, while Naomi Osaka channelled her inner “zombie mode” to earn a place in the third round.
Top seed and world No. 1 Djokovic hammered American Taylor Fritz, 6-4, 6-2, to advance to the last 16 following a premature exit here a year ago.
Djokovic won the Madrid title in 2011 and 2016. He will be chasing a fourth straight Grand Slam trophy at Roland Garros next month.
Marin Cilic rallied to overcome Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, while 2018 finalist Dominic Thiem advanced when Reilly Opelka quit at 6-7 (2/7), 6-3, 1-0 against the Austrian fifth seed.
David Ferrer, who will retire after this event, defeated Spanish compatriot Roberto Bautista Agut, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.
In the women’s draw, top seed Osaka defeated Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo, 7-6 (7/5), 3-6, 6-0.
Japan’s Osaka, winner of the last two Grand Slams, said she had to conquer her inner demons to finish off a difficult match.
“In the third set, I just, like, went zombie mode,” she said.
Third seed and two-time champion Simona Halep of Romania ended the hopes of Johanna Konta 7-5, 6-1 in the second round.