Finally, after five attempts, Roger Federer reached the finals of a tournament this year and collected the top prize at the Estroril Open in Portugal. Curiously, Federer’s first title of 2008 occurred on clay after Russian Nikolay Davydenko, the second seed, retired due to a leg injury in the second set 7-6, 1-2.
To jump start his clay season, Federer added this competition to his schedule with the objective of getting additional practice as he contemplates Roland Garros, the premier clay court premium. Federer had some difficulties during the tournament, needing three sets on a couple of occasions to advance thru to the next round. Although Federer has an 11-0 record against Davydenko, a good match was anticipated for various reasons. Firstly, Davydenko has always competed well on clay and was on familiar grounds having won this tournament in 2003. Secondly, Federer has not been in classic form this year. Considering that Davydenko was fresh off his victory at the Sony Ericsson Open where he beat Andy Roddick in the semifinals, a player against whom he has a wretched record. Then in the finals, Davydenko crushed Rafael Nadal to earn his second ATP Masters’ title. As such, it was fitting to set aside Davydenko’s poor record against Federer and assume that momentum was in the Russian’s corner. Therefore, it is lamentable that his run in Estoril finished on a sour note after a competitive first set and after Nikolay was able to break Roger early in the second.
Despite the asterisk, this result may be a favorable omen for Federer on many fronts. Amongst its former champions, this event counts Carlos Moya, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Sergi Brugera, just to name a few, who are also French Open champions. Another positive development to emerge from the Federer’s camp is the hiring of Jose Higueras as a coach on a trial basis. Higueras has an extensive clay court resume both as a player and tutor. He guided Jim Courier and Michael Chang to their French Open Championships and had a hand in shaping the game of clay court aces such as Moya and Bruegera. Perhaps, Higueras will be the key to Federer’s unlocking of the French Open mystery. In the doubles final, t he South African team of Jeff Coetzee and Wesley Moodie needed a third set tiebreak to vanquish Jamie Murray of Scotland and Kevin Ullyett of Zimbabwe.
The women were also in action in Portugal, a tier IV event. The spoils belonged to Russian Maria Kirilenko as she claimed both the singles and doubles titles. In the singles final, Kirilenko, the second seed, took on Iveta Benesova of the Czech Republic and defeated her in two sets 6-4, 6-2. The day prior, Kirilenko teamed up with Italian Flavia Pennetta to capture the doubles trophy.