The second-ranked Federer took a break after losing in quarterfinals of the Indian Wells hardcourt tournament to Nadal, but instantly took to the slower red surface and broke early to take control of the first set. He then broke Stepanek three times in the second, losing his own serve once, to finish the win in 1 hour, 21 minutes.
“I’m very happy, because he has caused me difficulties in the past,” Federer said about the 34-year-old Stepanek, who these days is one of the few players on tour older than the Swiss star.
“If I would be the only guy over 30, it would feel a bit awkward, to be honest,” the 31-year-old Federer said.
Federer can equal John McEnroe’s career total of 77 titles if he defends the Madrid trophy, having won last year on the heavily criticized blue clay that organizers decided to get rid of for this tournament.
“They (organizers) spoke to more experts from the French Open and Monaco, and you can tell it’s a proper clay court now,” Federer said, adding that Madrid had issues with its courts even before switching to a blue surface. “I know that added to the whole controversy, the color, because of tradition and so forth. It was extremely slippery and the court wasn’t taking the water well.”