Federer, Soderling reach third round
PARIS -- Apparently, even Roger Federer, with his record 16 Grand Slam titles, was in need of some advice on a wet and windy Wednesday at the French Open.
Forced off court by two rain delays and "pushed," as he put it, by a player with a career record below .500, Federer turned to Swiss Davis Cup captain Severin Luthi for words of wisdom during the breaks. Told to be more aggressive early and then to use more drop shots late, Federer survived for a 7-6 (4), 6-2, 6-4 victory over Alejandro Falla in the second round.
"Those were good things he told me," said the top-ranked Federer, the French Open's defending champion for the first time. "Those little details make a crucial difference."
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Monfils' match against Fabio Fognini in the main stadium was halted at 5-all in the fifth set a few minutes before 10 p.m., but only after all manner of theater. At 4-all, there was a prolonged discussion with tournament referee Stefan Fransson about whether to suspend the match; Fognini didn't care for the decision to continue and kept arguing, which led to Monfils being awarded a free point.
Then, with Monfils barely able to walk, let alone run, Fognini accrued three match points at 5-4 but failed to convert any and had more choice words for the chair umpire while packing up his equipment for the night.
Nothing quite so dramatic happened on that same court several hours earlier, when Federer met Falla, a left-hander ranked 70th who entered the day 11-13 at Grand Slams, 53-60 overall.
Here, then, is what passes for intrigue when Federer faces anyone other than Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros: Falla flicked a passing shot up the line to break serve and take a 6-5 lead in the first set.
Given a chance to serve out the set, Falla put a forehand into the net, sailed a backhand wide, watched Federer snap a volley winner and then sent a backhand long. And from 4-all in the tiebreak, Federer took three points in a row, including an inside-out forehand winner that landed on a line to end a 12-stroke exchange.
"He really pushed me to come up with something special, which I couldn't do in the first set, really," said Federer, who hasn't lost to anyone at the French Open other than Nadal since 2005. "I definitely got a little bit lucky to get out of that one."
The man Federer beat in last year's final, Robin Soderling, is looking strong again, having dropped a total of seven games through two matches in 2010.
His second rout came Wednesday against unseeded American Taylor Dent, a 6-0, 6-1, 6-1 victory that lasted a mere 71 minutes.
"That was fun, huh? I'd be a fool to say that I felt like I was in it at any stage," Dent said. "It would be tough for me to beat the 12-and-under French champion, playing that way."
Soderling remained on course for a Roland Garros rematch against Federer in the quarterfinals.
"I'm feeling good," Soderling said. "I won two matches pretty easy in straight sets, and I didn't have to run for many hours on court so far, so I feel fresh."
Other winners included No. 8 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, No. 10 Marin Cilic, No. 11 Mikhail Youzhny, No. 15 Tomas Berdych, No. 20 Stanislas Wawrinka, No. 29 Albert Montanes and Federer's next opponent, 165th-ranked qualifier Julian Reister.
For years, Federer used a part-time coach or went without a coach altogether, but for the past few seasons, Luthi has traveled with him, offering insights and scouting future foes.
"It's just good to have someone to be able to debate about my game and the opponents' game and come up with a game plan," Federer said. "I have my ideas from all my experience, but then he's also seen my past matches -- the last day, the last weeks, the practice sessions -- and then he's got a good sense of what I'm doing well and not so well."
Yes, the man widely considered the best tennis player in history acknowledges he can use a little help now and then.
"Maybe he doesn't have the biggest name in the game, because he wasn't No. 1 in the world himself or coached 15 other top guys," Federer said of Luthi. "I don't think you necessarily need that to be a good coach."
After his second-round match, Tsonga lashed out at organizers for turning down his request to have his first-round match scheduled for the second or third day of the tournament. Instead, he had to play on Day 1.
"Frankly, I was a bit disappointed because I was playing on a Sunday," Tsonga said after beating Ouanna. "I had asked not to play on a Sunday, absolutely, because I had practiced in such a way that I thought I wanted to play on a Monday or Tuesday, to be totally fit. But they imposed it on me."
Tsonga said he deserved more respect considering his ranking and nationality.
"Today, we're in France. I'm French. I'm the French No. 1. I would have thought it was legitimate for me to be listened to," said Tsonga, the 2008 Australian Open runner-up.
"If you look at Murray, if he decides on a day or a time schedule at Wimbledon, nobody is going to impose anything on him. For Federer, in his country it's the same. And in the U.S., I suppose it's the same thing for the best American players. I think that Lleyton [Hewitt] probably plays in the sun during the Australian Open because he loves the sun and other opponents don't like the sun," Tsonga said.
Another French player, Richard Gasquet, said the tournament refused to give him an extra day off after he won a tuneup tournament in Nice. Gasquet lost to Murray in five sets in the first round at Roland Garros.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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