Sporting a new minty-fresh, collarless Nike kit, Roger Federer defeated Radek Stepanek 6-3, 6-3 on Tuesday to advance to the third round of the Madrid Open. The match was Federer's first since losing to Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif., in mid-March. Federer skipped the Sony Open in Miami and the Monte Carlo Masters.
"I feel good now," Federer said before the tournament. "Took me a little time to get over my back issue from Indian Wells.
"I'm confident that I can take a break and come back strong, because usually players are scared to do that. Being away from the game for six, seven weeks, it's not a whole lot, but you have what, another 10, 12, I don't know, maybe more tournament winners. You always feel you could have maybe been one of them, so it's hard to sit out and see other players win tournaments the entire time you're sitting at home. Obviously you're working hard, but there is no glory really in working on a practice court with nobody watching you play.
"What we play for at the end of the day is playing in front of fans and being part of the show and achieving things in your career you always dreamed about. For that, I need to work hard as well. I need to get away from it all, so that when I do come back, I'm excited and motivated. That's what I feel right now, and that then can carry you a long way."
He'll play either Kei Nishikori or Victor Troicki in the third round. Daily Bagel: McEnroe at Rangers game; Decker at Met Gala