INDIAN WELLS, Calif.--Roger Federer is the perfect antidote to John Isner.
Whether a fan of Isner's one (big)-note tennis or not, it was frustrating to see 15th-seeded Isner, who was a finalist here last year, swat forehands into the net, backhands into the desert and watch his shoulders slump lower and lower after every shot.
So it was a brilliant bit of scheduling to have defending champion and second-seeded Roger Federer follow Isner onto Stadium 1 court at the BNP Paribas Open on Saturday at Indian Wells.
After Isner's emotionless 6-7 (6), 6-3, 6-4 upset loss to 32-year-old, 98th-ranked Lleyton Hewitt, Federer came out and played tennis that was precise and elegant, hard-hitting and delicate.
Federer, 31, had little trouble eliminating 43rd-ranked Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan, 6-2, 6-3.
It was a moment to catch a tennis breath in the middle of a jam-packed schedule that included fourth-seeded David Ferrer losing to big-serving South African Kevin Anderson, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 (Anderson is still recovering from elbow surgery he had a month ago); upcoming young American Jamie Hampton upsetting 20th-seeded Su-Wei Hsieh of Taiwan, 6-3, 6-3; and top-seeded and defending women's champion Victoria Azarenka advancing past former top-five player Daniela Hantuchova, 6-4, 6-1, even though Azarenka was playing with crisscrossed black tape on her lower left leg.
Istomin wore sunglasses even though it was mostly cloudy late in the afternoon on the big Stadium 1 court. Maybe he didn't want to see the sweet beauty of Federer's game.
But this second-round match was only about watching Federer place tennis balls in corners and on lines, as if he were just dropping them with his gentle hands and not walloping them with a tennis racket.
"It felt good from the start and I was able to maintain that level of play," said Federer who will next play Ivan Dodig of Croatia. Dodig had never won a match here before. Now he's won two and will have a chance against a man who has won this tournament four times, including last year.
Hewitt won this tournament in 2003, but now the Australian seems mainly to play as if he's simply hanging on although he has a U.S. Open and a Wimbledon title to his credit.
Hewitt has had five surgeries over the past four years and while his spirited fist-pumping and signature shouts of "Come on," still accompany him, Hewitt is barely inside the top 100 in the world. He is married, a father and the skill that helped him win two major titles doesn't age well. That's his speed around the court.
The 27-year-old Isner, who is 6 feet 9, will be lucky if he has two major titles to his credit when his career is over.
"It's a tough match," Isner said. "I knew it was going to be. Lleyton is such a good competitor. He's one of the greatest competitors this game has ever seen and he's tough to play. He was better than me. The margins, for myself, they're just in general really thin."
While Isner had 18 aces to three from Hewitt, Isner didn't convert a single break point and only had four tries at one.
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