In his first match since a minor back injury, Roger Federer saw off the challenge from Alexander Zverev to set up a third round meeting with Dominic Thiem at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia. The victory also earned the Swiss his 1,070th career victory.
Federer clinches a tight first set
Federer started in typical fashion by holding his serve to love, before the pair held serve twice each, allowing Federer to open up a slender 3-2 lead. Neither player had even a look at a break, but Federer put in two fantastic returns including a drop shot to break at the first time of asking. He then held for 5-2 but missed out on securing the first set as Zverev saved a set point to hold serve. It was all for nothing, however, as the 34-year-old clinched the opening set by holding to fifteen to win it 6-3.
Federer was dominating on his own serve, winning 86 percent on his first delivery, as well as 80 on the second. Zverev was serving at a higher 68 percent, but couldn’t apply any pressure to his return games.
Federer secures his 1,070th career win
Immediately in the second set, Zverev was forced to save another break point, before holding and missing half-chances to get the elusive break. These opportunities appeared to have cost him, as the young German was broken and seemingly on his way out of the tournament. Almost out of nowhere, the 18-year-old broke straight back, taking advantage of his second opportunity after Federer had saved the first with a strong overhead.
The players exchanged straightforward holds until Federer hit a drop shot into the net on break point. He was building up pressure on his own serve and chalked up three consecutive holds to love to draw level at 5-5. This pressure eventually got to the German in the eleventh game of the second set, with Zverev eventually succumbing after saving three consecutive break points from 0-40 down. The world number two needed no second chances and served out the win comfortably, to record a 6-3, 7-5 victory.
Considering it was his first match back since that minor back injury, Federer put in an impressive display, applying plenty of pressure on his return games while looking comfortable on his own delivery. His back appeared untroubled, while his consistent use of drop shots was interesting.
Zverev demonstrated his talent throughout, but his opponent’s consistency troubled him, never giving him a totally comfortable service game. His second serve seems to require a bit of work to progress to the top level of the game, but as a 19-year-old, his game is highly impressive and he’s likely to improve on his ranking of 44 in the world.
Federer now sets up a third round meeting with Thiem, who brushed aside Joao Sousa 6-3, 6-2 in the second round.