MADRID — Defending champion Roger Federer looked comfortable on clay in his first match in two months Tuesday, easing past Radek Stepanek 6-3, 6-3 to reach the third round of the Madrid Open.
In the women’s event, defending champion Serena Williams moved her title defense into the third round after beating Lourdes Dominguez Lino of Spain 6-2, 7-5.
The top-ranked Williams struggled a bit to counter her opponent’s drop-shots and lobs but stayed on course for a fourth title of the year and 50th of her career.
“It was a really good clay-court tennis match for me,” Williams said. “I know if I face another opponent like that, I’ll have that experience and I’ll know how to play.”
The second-ranked Federer took a break after losing in the Indian Wells quarterfinals on hardcourt to Rafael Nadal.
But he broke early to take control of the first set.
He then broke Stepanek three times in the second, losing his own serve once.
“I’m very happy, because he has caused me difficulties in the past,” Federer said about the 34-year-old Stepanek — who these days is one of the few players on tour older than the Swiss star.
“If I would be the only guy over 30, it would feel a bit awkward, to be honest,” the 31-year-old Federer said.
Federer can equal John McEnroe’s career tally of 77 titles if he defends the Madrid trophy, having won last year on the criticized blue clay that organizers decided to discontinue.
Like many of his fellow players, Federer said the traditional red surface was better.
“They (organizers) spoke to more experts from the French Open and Monaco, and you can tell it’s a proper clay court now,” Federer said.
“I know that added to the whole controversy, the color, because of tradition and so forth. It was extremely slippery and the court wasn’t taking the water well.”
Third-seeded Andy Murray had a tougher time against Florian Mayer before outlasting the German 7-6 (11), 7-6 (3). No. 13 Tommy Haas of Germany and No. 15 Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland were among other seeded players to advance.
No. 8 Richard Gasquet of France lost 7-5, 3-6, 6-4 to Daniel Gimeno-Traver of Spain.
Also, Marion Bartoli of France overcame a fall to beat qualifier Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor of Spain 6-4, 2-6, 6-4.
“My ankle was hurting me at the beginning of third set, but I was really able to focus,” Bartoli said.
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