It’s sometimes hard to believe that the two Swiss giants, Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka, are the oldest men in the world’s top 20. Having contested the Indian Wells final a week ago, they took turns on Saturday in easing through to the third round of the Miami Open.
The respect between these long-standing rivals is palpable, even if a weeping Wawrinka joked last week that Federer was an “a------“ for laughing at his tears during the trophy ceremony. And having already met twice this season – the first time coming in the Australian Open semi-final – they remain on course for another collision in the semi-finals here on Friday.
Yesterday, both matches were over in little more than an hour, but Federer had marginally the tougher task in subduing the talented American 19-year-old Frances Tiafoe. After coming through a first-set tie-break, he dropped his serve in the next game, but recovered smoothly to post a 7-6, 6-3 victory in 73 minutes. Strangely, the only man to beat him so far this season is also the most obscure: the Russian world No. 81 Evgeny Donskoy.
Earlier, Wawrinka had sauntered through his own opening match against the clay-court specialist Horacio Zeballos, thus living up to his billing as the top seed at a Masters event for the first time.
“For me it doesn't change much to be No. 1 seed or No. 3 or No. 4,” said Wawrinka, whose elevation in the pecking order was the result of twin withdrawals by Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, both as a result of elbow injuries. “Yes, it’s on my CV, but that's it. I know I can beat anybody, but I never played well here in the past. Hopefully I can change that this year.”
With his 32nd birthday approaching on Tuesday, Wawrinka might once have been considered a man in the twilight of his career. But such calculations have been rendered obsolete by Federer’s re-emergence at 35. Wawrinka, too, feels like he is improving with age.
“Andy and Novak have been struggling the first three month of the year,” said Wawrinka, “and they are injured now, so we going to see what's going to happen. But you have Roger playing so well; Rafa [Nadal] also playing well.
“Opportunity can only come if you play well, win big tournaments. That's all I'm focused on. I don't accept to improve my ranking by other players not playing well.”
Meanwhile Jamie Murray and his partner Bruno Soares moved into the second round of the doubles event with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Treat Huey and Max Mirnyi.