Federer enjoys smooth start in Spain

Former world number one Roger Federer will take on France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga after defeating the Czech Republic's Radek Stepanek in his opening match, while Nikolay Davydenko and David Ferrer bid farewell to the Madrid Masters.


Roger Federer kick-started the final leg of his long 2008 season as he pegged back exuberant Czech Radek Stepanek 6-3, 7-6 (8/6) to advance into the third round of the Madrid Masters on Wednesday.

The Swiss second seed returned successfully to the ATP after a three-week pause as he tests the waters, still planning to determine his remaining schedule week by week straight through the November Masters Cup in Shanghai.

It took a determined effort from the 13-time grand slam winner to drain the energy from Stepanek, who insisted on leaping and "sawing wood" in celebration on almost every successful point against the Swiss master.

But Federer calmly had his way in the end after the number 30 saved one match point, sending a second one wide to put Federer through.

"I'm happy to be back on tour, I played Davis Cup indoors and that gave me some matches. but I had two or three weeks off," said Federer, the 2006 Madrid winner and last year's losing finalist.

"The first round is always going to be tough, I'm very happy to win."

Federer will now prepare for a Thursday night encounter with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

The Australian Open finalist from France continued to erase his reputation as the forgotten man of 2008 with a Wednesday fightback victory, coming from 3-5 down in the final set to beat Spaniard Marcel Granollers 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/5).

Number three Novak Djokovic escaped against Romanian Victor Hanescu, who retired with a groin injury to hand over a 6-7 (8/10), 7-6 (10/8), 3-1 victory to the Serb.

Djokovic stood two points from defeat in the second-set tiebrekaer before pulling through.

Ninth seed Juan Del Potro also advanced without completing his second-round match as Finn Jarkko Nieminen quit while trailing 6-2, 4-2 with a thigh injury picked up last week in a run to the Stockholm semi-finals.

Seventh seed David Nalbandian began his title defence with a test before overcoming Czech Tomas Berdych 6-2, 6-7 (5/7), 6-1.

The Argentine then confirmed that he would play in next month's Davis Cup final against Spain despite quarrelling with his federation over the home venue.

"Yes, of course," we are in the final and I'm going to compete. I've never been in doubt about my participation," he said after telling a Buenos Aires newspaper last week that his participation might be in doubt.

Croatian 14th seed Ivo Karlovic fired 24 aces as he beat Swede Robin Soderling 7-6 (9/7), 7-6 (10/8) to advance.

Tsonga made a name for himself despite losing the Australian Open final in January to Djokovic, then found himself undergoing knee surgery a few months later.

As he plays in his third event since returning - he won the Bangkok title last month - Tsonga says he's got nothing to prove, except to himself.

"I don't feel forgotten," said Tsonga. "But the injury was very difficult for me.

"I've only played 10 or 11 events and I'm ranked 15th in the world - what would have happened had I been healthy and played 20?"

American qualifier Robby Ginepri shocked Russian fifth seed Nikolay Davydenko in a 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 decision.

The number 63 had a history in Madrid, reaching the semi-finals in 2005 and next faces Frenchman Gilles Simon.

Davydenko came in intent on rescuing his season after playing the Moscow quarter-finals last week.

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