DOHA, Qatar — Roger Federer added to his repertoire of through-the-legs winners on his way to beating Dutch qualifier Thomas Schoorel 7-6 (3), 6-3 at the Qatar Open in his first official match of the season.
Top-ranked Rafael Nadal also advanced, beating Karol Beck 6-3, 6-0.
After a sluggish first set, the No. 2-ranked Swiss hit his stride in the second. Leading 5-2 and faced with a ball that changed direction after clipping the top of the net, Federer flicked it through his legs for a clean winner into the corner.
“It’s one of the best shots again of my career, one I’m going to look back on and smile, of course,” Federer said. “It was quite fantastic.”
The 21-year-old Schoorel, playing only his second ATP-level match, managed a smile as the crowd applauded. Schoorel went on to hold his serve, but Federer sealed the win in the next game.
Federer successfully pulled off the shot — also known as a “tweener” — at the previous two U.S. Opens, at last year’s Shanghai Masters and at the 2007 Dubai Open.
In the second round, Federer plays Swiss compatriot Marco Chiudinelli, who beat Reda El Amrani 3-6, 7-6 (3), 6-3.
The 16-time Grand Slam champion struggled in the first set against Schoorel, and had to save three set points when trailing 5-4 in the first set. However, he reeled off five points in a row to even the score at 5-5 and then took advantage of three long returns by Schoorel to take the set on a tiebreak.
“It was a difficult match, especially in the first set,” Federer said. “In the first set, he played really well. This player has quality.”
Federer broke serve for the first time in the fourth game of the second set before easing to victory in 68 minutes.
“I hope to do well here,” said Federer, who won the tournament in 2005 and 2006. “I know (Rafael) Nadal is here and that makes this event very interesting.”
Nadal led 3-0 in the first set, and broke Beck all three times in the second.
“I try to do better every day and be consistent,” said Nadal, who won the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open last year. “I wanted to do that. It is important to do that to keep my (top) ranking.”
Nadal, who is seeking his first trophy in Doha, will face either Lukas Lacko of Slovakia and Pere Riba of Spain in the next round.