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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 June 2018

Victorious Roger Federer understands Novak Djokovic's struggles after Serb crashes out of Indian Wells tennis tournament

Federer beats Federico Delbonis before conceding 'I have been interrupted at night and have to come back the next day'

Roger Federer had to return another day to beat Federico Delbonis. Jayne Kamin-Oncea / Reuters
Roger Federer had to return another day to beat Federico Delbonis. Jayne Kamin-Oncea / Reuters

World No 1 Roger Federer finished off Federico Delbonis in a rain-disrupted match on Sunday to reach the third round at Indian Wells as five-time champion Novak Djokovic was toppled.

Federer returned to stadium court on Sunday afternoon and needed an hour to finish off his second round victory 6-3, 7-6. "It's been a long time since I have been interrupted at night and have to come back the next day," Federer said.

His title defence got off to a soggy start on Saturday night when play was suspended because of rain showers with Federer up a set and tied 2-2 in the second.

The clouds rolled in just before the start of their match on Saturday and after a short delay to start the first set they managed to play until the skies blackened and the heavy rains came in the second. After another 90-minute delay organisers suspended play for the night.

Federer is making his 17th appearance in the California desert and is assured of remaining world No 1 if he makes it to the semi-finals. He extended his 2018 win streak to 13 matches and has only dropped three sets from 34 played this year.

Federer hit five aces and won 74 per cent of his first serve points in the match which took a total of one hour and 41 minutes over the two days. He started quickly hammering a backhand winner to take the lone break of the first set and he would deny a pair of break chances when serving for the opener at 5-3.

In the tiebreaker, Federer took a 5-2 lead but Delbonis battled back to win a long rally and tie it 5-5. He won the final three points to take the match by forcing Delbonis to dump all three of those shots into the net.

Federer will face 25th-seed Filip Krajinovic in the third round. He and 10th seed Djokovic both came into the tournament seeking to become the first six-time winner of the event.

But Djokovic fell at the first hurdle with a shock loss to Japanese qualifier Taro Daniel. Daniel sent an out-of-sorts Djokovic tumbling with a hard-fought 7-6, 4-6, 6-1 victory.

It was another snag in the return for the world No 13 Djokovic who conceded he lacked composure while playing in just his second event of 2018 and first since having surgery.

"For me it felt like first match I ever played on the tour. Very weird," Djokovic said. "I mean, I just completely lost rhythm, everything. Just struggled also a little bit with the health the last couple of weeks."

The Serb is making a cautious return to the ATP Tour after stopping his 2017 season following Wimbledon, due to a right elbow injury. He lost to Chung Hyeon in the Australian Open fourth round in January before undergoing the surgery.

Djokovic scrambled to win the second set on Sunday but the rust from the layoff was evident as he made 62 unforced errors compared to 29 for Daniel. He had four aces but served poorly overall making four double faults and winning just 65 percent of his first-serve points.

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Novak Djokovic struggled during his second-round match against Taro Daniel. Jayne Kamin-Oncea / Reuters
Novak Djokovic struggled during his second-round match against Taro Daniel. Jayne Kamin-Oncea / Reuters

Federer said he understands well how even a champion like Djokovic could be struggling to find his game so soon after having surgery.

"To me, it's not that surprising," he said. "When you go away from the game for over a two-month period it starts feeling a little bit that way. When you do come back from injury or when you haven't played in a long time, it just takes extra effort.

"It is still early stages for Novak coming back and the first one after surgery. He's only going to get better from here."

Daniel, who is ranked 109th in the world, advanced to the third round where he will face Gael Monfils of France who outlasted American John Isner 6-7, 7-6, 7-5.

In other men's matches, David Ferrer of Spain defeated Tennys Sandgren of the US 6-2, 7-6.