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Federer battles through

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Originally published on: 26/02/10 12:06

The Swiss bounced back from dropping the second set on a tie-break to post a hard-fought 6-3 6-7 (6/8) 6-3 win.

The top seed at this hardcourt tournament, Federer has suffered a disappointing year by his own high standards, but has flourished at this event in recent years and came in as the two-time defending champion.

The 27-year-old also was a finalist here in 2000 and 2001.

Federer’s 59-13 win-loss record in 2008 marks the 13-time Grand Slam champion’s first double-figure loss total since 2003.

Federer has only three titles this season – albeit including a season-salvaging US Open triumph – but it is his lowest haul since finishing 2002 with the same number. And time is running out for him to add to that total, as only two more events remain on the ATP calendar after this tournament.

Federer, who lost the world number one ranking to Rafael Nadal in August and will finish the year off the top spot for the first time since 2003, will face either Eduardo Schwank or Jarkko Nieminen next.

Third-seeded Argentinian Juan Martin del Potro continued his fine season by brushing aside Swiss qualifier George Bastl 6-2 6-4 in his opener.

Del Potro had never won an ATP singles title until this past summer when he reeled off 23 consecutive wins that culminated in four straight championships.

The 20-year-old has risen from 81st to ninth in the rankings since April and would no doubt like to get a another shot at beating Federer, who defeated him in the quarter-finals in Madrid last week.

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