Roger Federer Showing No Signs of Rust Despite 2-Month Hiatus from Tennis

Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistMay 8, 2013

MADRID, SPAIN - MAY 07:  Roger Federer of Switzerland in action against Radek Stepanek of Czech Republic during day four of the Mutua Madrid Open tennis tournament at the Caja Magica on May 7, 2013 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Julian Finney/Getty Images

It may have only been a second-round matchup at the Madrid Open, but when Roger Federer rather easily dismantled Radek Stepanek, 6-3, 6-3, it was obvious that the world's No. 2 wasn't rusty despite a two-month layoff.

Think about that for a moment. Just imagine taking two months off from work—you'd be a little off your game, right? 

Not Federer.

Sure, it wasn't his finest performance—he had just one ace in the contest and struggled somewhat to close it out with multiple match points—but he generally dominated and was very impressive after such a long midseason layoff.

He won 75 percent of his first-serve points. He had 20 unforced errors (as opposed to Stepanek's 30). He didn't appear to break a sweat.

Sure, this tournament has always been kind to Federer. Since the Madrid Open went to clay in 2009, he's won the event twice and reached another final. And I suppose you could make the argument that an opponent of Stepanek's caliber was unlikely to expose any rust in Federer's game.

But keep in mind that world No. 1 Novak Djokovic was upset by Grigor Dimitrov in the second round on Tuesday. Lower seeds or not, these are still professional players, and they are capable of pulling off surprise wins against even the elite.

For Federer, this tournament is an obvious tune-up for the French Open, which should once again be decided between the sport's four elite players. Take away Djokovic's shocking loss on Tuesday, and the other three dominant players in the sport have been excellent this season.

Djokovic has won three tournaments, including the Australian Open. Rafael Nadal has won four tournaments, reached the final in the other two he's entered and has won at Roland Garros three straight times and seven times in the last eight years.

And Andy Murray has won two tournaments and reached the final of the Australian Open.

In other words, Federer will have his work cut out in his effort to win his first French Open since 2009. And if he came out rusty against Stepanek, I think we all would doubt his ability to end Nadal's reign at the event.

But so far, no rust. Maybe we will see a few chinks in his armor later in the tournament, but for now it appears to be business as usual for Federer. 

Really, we shouldn't expect anything less at this point.


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