Roger Federer moved a step closer to reclaiming the top spot in men’s tennis when he beat Belgium’s Ruben Bemelmans 6-1 6-2 in the Rotterdam Open on Wednesday.
The 36-year-old Swiss master needs only to reach the semifinals at the ATP 500 indoor event to overtake Rafael Nadal at the top of the ATP rankings and become world No.1 for the first time since November, 2012.
“It’s very surprising how good things went today,” said Federer, who dropped just four points on serve for the entire match.
“The key is to start well, put him under pressure.
“It was a great first round for me, I wanted to make him think he had to do something special to beat me. I did well there, I felt good, I’m healthy and I’m confident.”
He captured the first set from the 116th-ranked Bemelmans in only 19 minutes, having won the first five games with a flurry of fine shot-making, picking up where he left off in Melbourne last month where he won the first Grand Slam tournament of the year.
The imperious Federer had Bemelmans scampering all over the court to retrieve the ball but it always looked a hopeless task.
The Belgian pulled the score back to 3-2 in the second set but that was the last game he managed and Federer finished the job in 47 minutes.
Federer would surpass American Andre Agassi as the oldest world No.1 if he wins his next two matches in Rotterdam and he would also set another record of the longest gap of five years and 106 days between periods at the top.
He already holds the record for most weeks spent at No.1, having topped the rankings for a combined 302 weeks.
In other results, second seed Grigor Dimitrov won his first-round match against Yuichi Sugita, while fourth seed David Goffin and No.6 seed Tomas Berdych progressed to the quarterfinals with comfortable straight-sets victories.
No.3 seed Alexander Zverev was stunned in straight sets by lucky loser Andreas Seppi, losing 6-4 6-3 after spraying 30 errors while managing just 10 winners.
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