Roger Federer swept to a 6-3, 6-4, 6-1 win over Simone Bolelli to give Switzerland a 2-0 lead Friday over Italy in the Davis Cup playoffs.
Playing only four days after his five-set loss to Juan Martin del Potro in the U.S. Open final, Federer shook off two break points in the opening game and was never in trouble again against the 64th-ranked Bolelli.
Stanislas Wawrinka opened the tie by beating Andreas Seppi 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 on the red clay courts at the Valletta Cambiaso club.
The winner of the best-of-five series will return to the World Group next year.
Federer and Wawrinka, the Olympic champions, will team together against Fabio Fognini and Potito Starace in Saturday’s doubles, with reverse singles scheduled for Sunday.
Bolelli trained with Federer for three days after losing in the first round in Miami earlier this year and claimed he knew the Basel native’s game well.
It looked like that might pay off early on when Bolelli forced Federer to hit a forehand into the net in the opening game, but the Swiss standout responded with an ace and another big first serve to get to deuce, and then served another ace to hold.
Federer continued to serve well throughout the match, compiling 10 aces to go with his 35 winners.
Rain drops fell early on in the match but play was never suspended.
A large contingent of red-clad Swiss fans cheered in unison between every point, while the Italian supporters were quieter as they appreciated Federer’s game.
Federer took control with a break to go up 5-3 in the first set, using his backhand to slice a return so low that Bolelli was virtually forced to hit his reply long.
Federer had his entire game working, running around his backhand at one point to smack a forehand return winner up the line, then landing a backhand topspin lob winner off his back foot on the next point.
Italy captain Corrado Barazzutti acknowledged before the tie that the key match was Seppi-Wawrinka, but Seppi struggled from the start and took a medical break between the second and third sets to address a lack of energy.
“The same thing has happened to me a few times now,” said Seppi, the highest-ranked Italian at No. 59. “When I play these early matches I don’t get to have a full meal and I don’t have enough energy.”
The match started at noon local time, and the 22nd-ranked Wawrinka was able to pick on Seppi’s weak second serve from the start.