Federer to Meet Rochus in First Round
ATP World No. 1 Roger Federer will look to improve his perfect 5-0 record against Olivier Rochus of Belgium in the 2008 Estoril Open first round.
The Swiss superstar, who has compiled a 32-6 clay court record the last two years en route to back-to-back runner-up efforts in Paris, will be competing in his first non-ATP Masters Series tournament on clay since Gstaad in July 2004.
Of Federer's six losses on clay, five have come to rival Rafael Nadal, who will make his season clay court debut at Masters Series Monte-Carlo next week.
Federer has been drawn in the same quarter of the draw as sixth-seeded Frenchman Nicolas Mahut, who he could meet in the quarterfinals.
The 26-year-old Federer is trying to capture his first ATP title of the season. This is the first time since 2000 he's began the first three months of the year without a title.
World No. 4 Nikolay Davydenko faces a tricky opening test against Jurgen Melzer of Austria. But the Russian, who captured the 2003 Estoril Open title (d. Calleri) and finished runner-up in 2006 (l. to Nalbandian), holds a 3-0 career lead.
Davydenko comes into the European clay-court season opener full of confidence having captured his second career ATP Masters Series title in Miami last week (d. Nadal). The 26-year-old has a 19-5 record on the year.
World No. 18 Ivo Karlovic, who captured his maiden ATP title in Houston one year ago, is making his first appearance in Estoril in three years and will be the No. 3 seed.
The big-serving Croatian, who has hit 230 aces in 14 matches (No. 4 on ATP circuit), is scheduled to meet Portuguese wild card Rui Machado first up.
Fourth-seeded Finn Jarkko Nieminen returns to the Estadio Nacional for the first time since 2003. Six years ago he reached the Estoril final (l. to Nalbandian).
Since reaching the Adelaide final (l. to Llodra) and Australian Open quarterfinals (l. to Nadal) in the first month of the 2008 ATP season, Nieminen has suffered five opening round exits at ATP-level events. The World No. 26 will hope to make amends against German Denis Gremelmayr.
Fifth-seeded Frenchman Gilles Simon has been drawn to meet Roko Karanusic of Croatia, while his compatriots No. 6 seed Mahut faces wild card Frederico Gil of Portugal and No. 7 seed Marc Gicquel will meet Serbian Boris Pashanski. Eighth-seeded German Michael Berrer challenges Gastao Elias, the 17-year-old Portuguese wild card.
The tournament is traditionally a platform for future Roland Garros champions.
Sergi Bruguera, Thomas Muster, Albert Costa and Juan Carlos Ferrero won titles in Portugal before going on to succeed in Paris.
Even Gustavo Kuerten (1997) and Gaston Gaudio (2004) won the doubles at the Estoril Open the same year they lifted the Roland Garros singles crown.