World no. 3 Roger Federer has scored the 21st win from 24 matches in 2019, beating Joao Sousa 6-4, 6-3 in an hour and 20 minutes for the best possible Rome comeback. Playing in the Italian capital for the first time since 2016 when he lost to Dominic Thiem in the third round, the four-time Foro Italico runner-up produced some strong numbers on both the first and second serve, fending off all seven break points to control the scoreboard.
Five years ago in Halle, Sousa took a set away from Roger and fought well today too, suffering three breaks and losing the edge in the pivotal moments to propel Federer into the third round that will take place later today in the packed day in Rome.
The Swiss finished the match with 25 winners (17 from the forehand wing) and 18 unforced errors while Sousa counted to just eight winners and 18 mistakes, with Federer dominating in the mid-range rallies to forge the crucial advantage that gave him the win.
Roger saved two break points in the fourth game of the match to avoid an early setback, breaking Sousa at 15 in game seven when the Portuguese netted a backhand to move in front. The Swiss repelled three break points in the next game to confirm the lead, wasting two set points on the return in the next game before holding at love with a service winner in game ten for a 6-4 after 40 minutes of play.
Carried by this momentum, Federer broke again at the start of the second set, serving well until game eight when he had to fend off two break points with good serves, opening a 5-3 lead and forcing Joao to serve for staying in the match.
Facing elimination, the Portuguese fought off four match points before Roger converted the fifth after a fantastic defense, securing another break to bring the encounter home and earn the 33rd triumph in Rome.