The ATP World Tour on Twitter confirmed the 6-1, 6-2 scoreline:
From the very beginning, it was all Federer as the Swiss maestro was serving brilliantly.
Federer put 90 percent of his first serves in play (18-of-20) and won 80 percent of his service points for the set. He only served up one ace, but that's hardly surprising on the clunky, slow-playing surface. Meanwhile, Stepanek was unable to answer on his serve, double-faulting four times and putting just 55 percent of his first serves in play.
Stepanek won just 50 percent of his service points for the set (9-of-18) and came up short on each of his two chances to avoid going down a break. Altogether it was one of the most complete sets of tennis Federer has put together all season, as pointed out by Sky Sports' Tim Clement:
Federer produces a rampant 1st set at the #MonteCarloMasters, taking it 6-1 v Stepanek in 22 mins. Race on to beat Djokovic's 45 min win— Tim Clement (@SkyTimClement) April 16, 2014
Federer cooled off some in the second set, but he was still able to suffocate Stepanek with his serve and chase down balls on the return en route to a comfortable 6-2 triumph in the decider.
Stepanek aided Federer in shortening the points as he accounted for 22 unforced errors and again failed to save each of his two break points.
TennisWorld contributor Andrew Burton summed up the one-sided affair:
"Like a knife through butter" says the commentator. Half decent, says I. Commiserations to Stepanek fans: Fed won 53-30, or 64%/36%. Thumped— Andrew Burton (@burtonad) April 16, 2014
Although he's won on every surface over the course of his career, Federer is often forced to take a backseat to Rafael Nadal this time of year. A few years ago, Federer discussed how the clay surface presents different obstacles for him and others, via The Independent:
On clay you don't need to have a volley. You almost don't need to have a serve. All you need to have is legs, an incredible forehand and backhand and to run things down. I'm not trying to take anything away from Rafa, because he's an exception and he did everything on other surfaces as well, but I think you can get away with having problems with your game on clay more than you can on other surfaces.
On a hard court you can lure a guy in and do many more things. You almost have to have more feel. On clay, I don't want to say it's too simple, that you just have to keep the ball in court and wait for a mistake, but sometimes it's too easy.
Nonetheless, the world No. 4 is off to a tremendous start on the red dirt and will have a shot to reach the quarterfinals with a win over Lukas Rosol later this week.
The two players last met in Dubai earlier this year with Federer pulling out a comfortable straight-sets win. Despite playing this event for the first time since 2011 and never having won, Federer will be a heavy favorite to reach the semifinals, where he would likely run into No. 2 seed and defending tournament champion Novak Djokovic.
However, if Federer can continue to put opponents on their heels with his serve, he'll have an excellent shot at making a deep run into Sunday's final and potentially conquering Monte Carlo for the first time.
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