Roger Federer returns a shot against Austria's Jurgen Melzer in the first round of the Australian Open in Melbourne.
Roger Federer returns a shot against Austria's Jurgen Melzer in the first round of the Australian Open in Melbourne.

Rusty Federer through to second round

SWISS maestro Roger Federer blew off his grand slam cobwebs to eventually breeze into the Australian Open's second round after a surprising early battle.

Federer, returning to Melbourne Park as an unfamiliar 17th seed, beat Austrian qualifier Jurgen Melzer 7-5 3-6 6-2 6-2 in a tick over two hours in front of an adoring Rod Laver Arena crowd.

The 35-year-old is playing his first grand slam since Wimbledon in July after spending the second half of last year recovering from a knee injury he sustained following his semi-final defeat at the 2016 Australian Open.

Federer also withdrew from the French Open with a back injury. He made his return to the tour via this month's Hopman Cup in Perth, where he partnered Belinda Bencic.

"It's nice to be playing normal tennis again on centre court like this - I couldn't be happier,” Federer said.

"It's been a long road. I'm in the draw, which is a beautiful thing, and I'm hoping to stick around. The first round's never easy for anybody.

"Any match is a good match, even if I lost, because I'm back on the court.”

Former world No.8 Melzer turned back the clock to test Federer, leading 4-2 in the opening set - only to lose it - before winning the second set to threaten an unlikely boilover.

But the winners started flowing just in time for the 17-time grand slam champion, who won 11 of the last 14 games.

Federer struck 19 aces among his 46 winners, compared to 36 unforced errors.

He faces a second straight qualifier next in American Noah Rubin before a potential three-round stretch against 10th seed Tomas Berdych, fifth seed Kei Nishikori and world No.1 Andy Murray.

HERALD SUN



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