Federer struggles at Japan Open

Tokyo, October 4 :

Roger Federer had a rusty start at the Japan Open before overcoming unseeded Viktor Troicki 7-6 (2), 7-6 (3) on Wednesday to reach the third round.

After a bye in the first round, the top-ranked Federer had trouble finding his rhythm against Troicki, who is ranked 276th and is playing in his first top level ATP tournament.

“It was a really tough match,” said Federer. “I didn’t know his game. I’ve never seen him play and it always takes time to figure a player out.”

Qualifier Troicki, who beat Spain’s Fernando Vicente in the first round, took advantage of some uncharacteristic unforced errors from Federer to make the match closer than it should have been.

It was hardly the performance Japanese fans were expecting from Federer, who is playing in his first tournament since winning the US Open — his 9th Grand Slam singles title and third major for 2006.

Troicki relied on a strong serve to throw Federer off his game. The 20-year-old Serbian player fired nine aces. “I couldn’t get a read on his serve,” said Federer. “He mixed it up well. This was my first match of the tournament so I wanted to play it safe and get a rhythm.”

Federer will face defending champion Wesley Moodie of South Africa in the next round. Moodie, seeded 13th, cruised to a 6-3, 6-4 win over Austria’s Stefan Koubek. “It will be another tough match,” said Federer. “Moodie is great server but I got through my first match and hopefully will be ready for the next one.”

In other matches, Jiri Novak of the Czech Republic upset fourth-seeded Andy Murray of Britain 6-3, 7-6 (1). It was another early exit for Murray, who lost in the first round of the Thailand Open last week.

Second-seeded Tommy Robredo of Spain defeated Taiwan’s Lu Yen-hsun 6-4, 6-1 and will face American Vincent Spadea in the third round. Jarkko Nieminen, seeded fifth, downed Germany’s Lard Burgsmuller 7-5, 7-6 (2) and will next face Argentina’s Juan Monaco, who beat compatriot Edgardo Massa 7-6 (4), 6-3.

In women’s play, second seeded Ai Sugiyama of Japan posted a 6-4, 6-3 win over Finland’s Emma Laine in the first round and Spanish No 4 Anabel Medina Garrigues ground out a 7-6 (3), 7-5 win over Czech Klara Zakopalova.

Greece’s Eleni Daniilidou, who won the Korea Open on Sunday, retired in the second set of her match against Frenchwoman Camille Pin while leading 6-1, 1-1.