Roger Federer showed shreds of evidence of Stefan Edberg’s influence as he got his 2014 season underway, advancing to the Brisbane International quarterfinals with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Jarkko Nieminen on Wednesday.
Federer worked briefly with Edberg in the offseason and will again use the six-time major winner as a coach in Melbourne as he tries to end his Grand Slam drought at the Australian Open this month.
The 32-year-old Swiss star is not suddenly reinforcing a serve-volley mindset, but he did venture to the net with good effect in his second-round match against Nieminen he had a first-round bye as he honed certain parts of his game.
“I’ve been serving OK, my forehand is going well, my movement is OK, I’m seeing the ball OK,” said Federer, who won the last of his 17 Grand Slam titles at Wimbledon in 2012. “I expect to play a bit better in the next match, even though today was already very good for a first match in so many weeks.”
After a day of injury withdrawals in the women’s draw, second-seeded Victoria Azarenka finished off the night session with a 6-3, 6-1 win over Casey Dellacqua to ensure the top five seeds reached the quarterfinals.
Top-seeded Federer, in the decisive game of the first set, rallied from 40-0 down and won the next five points to break for a 3-2 lead. He started with a pinpoint lob that caught the baseline and followed it up with a sharp, angled volley that turned the momentum.
Awaiting Federer in the quarterfinals is Australia’s Marinko Matosevic, who beat American Sam Querrey 5-7, 7-6 (3), 6-4. Second-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan eased to a 6-2, 6-2 win over Matthew Ebden of Australia to set up a quarterfinal against Marin Cilic of Croatia.
Cilic, in his second tournament following a four-month ban for testing positive for a banned stimulant in May, had a 7-5, 7-5 win over fifth-seeded Grigor Dimitrov, a Brisbane finalist last year.
Cilic, who reached a career-high No. 9 in 2010 but finished last season at No. 37, said playing again “feels like a new beginning for me.”
“I’m thinking about everything around myself in a different perspective,” he said. “I’m excited to be in the season and to play, to be back on the tour after all that misery last year.”
Azarenka’s match was the only women’s second-rounder to go the distance on Wednesday. She’ll next play Stefanie Voegele of Switzerland, who advanced when Wimbledon finalist Sabine Lisicki pulled out before their match with a stomach illness.
Maria Sharapova got a walkover into the quarterfinals when Australian teenager Ashleigh Barty withdrew and fifth-seeded Angelique Kerber progressed when Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia retired in the second set with a left leg injury. Kerber was leading 6-2, 4-3 against last year’s runner-up.
In Auckland, New Zealand, former world No. 1s Venus Williams and Ana Ivanovic moved closer to a semifinal meeting when they won second-round matches at the WTA’s ASB Classic.
Williams overcame a rusty start to beat Yvonne Meusburger of Austria 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 while second-seeded Ivanovic defeated Johanna Larsen of Sweden 6-1, 6-1.
After beating top-seeded Roberta Vinci in her first-ever WTA match on Tuesday, only four days after her 16th birthday, Croatia’s Ana Konjuh was beaten 2-6, 6-2, 6-2 by American Lauren Davis, who will play fifth-seeded compatriot Jamie Hampton in the quarterfinals.