The biggest indoor tournament of the ATP season so far has already kicked off in Rotterdam. Day One saw a smattering of upsets, the most significant being Jo-Wilfred-
Tsonga’s loss to Igor Sijsling. That means that the man who pushed Roger Federer to five memorable sets at the Australian Open last month will not face the Swiss in the
semi-finals in Rotterdam, depriving fans of a mouth-watering match-up but easing the top seed’s path to a successful title defence.
Since the inaugural event in 1972, only one man - Arthur Ashe - has triumphed three times in the Netherlands’ second city. Federer has one of the greatest indoor records in the history of the sport, and he is favourite to lift the trophy in the Ahoy Rotterdam on Sunday afternoon. Victory would mark the 77th singles title of his career, and put paid to any further suggestion that his game is in decline.
Federer’s route to last eight in Rotterdam looks straightforward enough. An opening match against 64th-ranked Grega Zemlja should pose few problems, and Federer has
schooled his likely second round opponent, Mikhail Youzhny, throughout his career. In nine meetings with the Russian, Federer has lost only one set, and it would be a huge upset if Youzhny were to turn the tables this week.
Federer was seeded to face the big-serving giant Jerzy Janowicz in the quarter-finals, but the Pole lost to Romania’s Victor Hanescu on Monday. While Hanescu is capable of winning another round, it seems more likely that Federer will face a Frenchman in the last eight, either Michael Llodra or Julien Benneteau. Llodra, currently ranked 51, is one of the wiliest competitors on tour, and although he has never beaten Federer, is in good from, having upset Janko Tipsarevic in Montpellier last week.