KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. -- Roger Federer glided toward the net,
pouncing on another point. He bent to hit a running, knee-high
backhand, dumped the difficult volley into the net and reacted with
an angry, wordless roar.
Such outbursts are rare from the world No. 1, but then he hardly
ever seems to miss a shot. Federer won his 17th match in a row
Saturday and began a bid for his first Nasdaq-100 Open title by
beating Olivier Rochus 6-3, 6-1.
"It's always hard to start a tournament," Federer said. "But
I actually felt quite comfortable and quite confident going into
That's understandable, given that Federer is 43-1 since the
start of the U.S. Open last August.
Federer, who needed just 71 minutes to put the Belgian away, has won three of the four Grand Slam tournaments but seeks a
breakthrough at Key Biscayne, where his best finish was as the
runner-up to Andre Agassi in 2002. The humid, 90-degree weather
that sapped players Saturday is often part of the challenge in the
"Everywhere you touch, it's wet," Federer said. "Here you
really can see who is fit and who is not fit, I have the feeling. I
felt good out there today, so this is a good sign for the rest of
Agassi, a six-time champion, beat Paul-Henri Mathieu 7-5, 6-4 later in the day. The No. 9-seeded Agassi lost only three points on his first serve in his first match since he withdrew from the Pacific Life Open last week because of a sore left toe.
"I felt it a little bit early," Agassi said. "But when I pushed through it, it never got worse, and that was reassuring."
"It was a tough match. There's nothing I take for granted
out there, especially not these days, and it was a good one to
get through," Agassi added.
American qualifier Jeff Morrison reached the
third round by upsetting No. 10-seeded Joachim Johansson 7-6 (3),
6-4. Morrison, ranked 108th, came into the tournament 0-5 in 2005.
"One of my biggest wins," said Morrison, 26. "I've struggled
this year up to this point. I just needed to keep the faith, and I
Morrison lost just one point on his first serve, never faced a
break point and hit 15 aces to nine for the 6-foot-6 Johansson, who
has won two tournaments this year.
Injury-plagued Mark Philippoussis withdrew before his
second-round match against No. 15 Fernando Gonzalez with a torn
ligament in his left ankle. The injury occurred in the next-to-last
game of his opening match Thursday.
Philippoussis was on crutches but said he expects to be back on
the court in two to three weeks.
"The important thing is to get back for the clay-court
season," he said.
No. 4 Guillermo Coria, runner-up last year to Andy Roddick, beat
Davide Sanguinetti 6-1, 6-4. American Taylor Dent, seeded 31st,
reached the third round at Key Biscayne for the first time and will
play Coria next.
Seeded men losing their opening matches included No. 19
Feliciano Lopez, No. 22 Nicolas Kiefer and No. 30 Paradorn
Srichaphan. All seeded players had a first-round bye.
Mariano Zabaleta beat Srichaphan 7-6 (5), 6-3 and will play
Federer next. Also advancing to the third round were No. 6 Tim
Henman and No. 7 Gaston Gaudio.
"It's really hot out there. Those are conditions where you
don't want to be out there any longer than necessary," said
The 5-foot-5 Rochus defeated 6-10 Ivo Karlovic in the first
round but couldn't topple the biggest talent in tennis. Federer
steadily wore down his former doubles partner and lost just seven
points on his serve.
A capacity stadium crowd endured the uncomfortable weather to
watch Federer's entertaining mix of finesse and power. Several
times he clanged his serve off a metal clock in the corner, beyond
Rochus' reach. One deft backhand followed a rainbow arc, diving
into the hardcourt at an unreturnable angle. Then Federer slammed a
forehand winner with such force that it spun off Rochus' racket
into the first row.
"I played well, hit a couple of good shots, surprised myself,"
While his confidence is high thanks to a tour-high four titles
this year, Federer conceded that he enters each tournament a little
dubious about his chances.
"Once I walk away as a winner, I'm kind of surprised," he
said. "When I arrived, there are so many great players. I look at
the draw -- it's tough. Suddenly I'm there with the trophy. So it is
Information from The Associated Press and Reuters was used in this report.