Federer happy to be back on court
Playing in his first tour-level match since July, Federer needed four sets to beat world No.300 Jurgen Melzer 7-5 3-6 6-2 6-2.
Federer is seeded No.17 in Melbourne after playing just seven tournaments last season following knee surgery in February 2016. The 17-time Grand Slam champion dropped out of the Top 10 for the first time in more than 14 years in November.
But his opponent could sympathise with Federer’s frustration. Melzer, also 35, came through the junior ranks with Federer, but shoulder surgery in November 2015 saw him slip to No.550 in the rankings in September.
Back inside the world’s top 200, Melzer came through qualifying, and although he took advantage of signs of rust from Federer, coming from a break down to win the second set, the Austrian was unable to sustain his challenge as Federer wrapped up victory in two hours and five minutes.
“Last year was tough,” Federer said. “It’s nice to be playing normal tennis again on a Centre Court like this so it’s beautiful. I couldn’t be happier out here now. It was a long road but I made it and I’m in the draw which is a beautiful thing and I a hope I can stick around for a little bit but first rounds are never easy for anybody so I’m just happy to live another day.
“Any match is a good match. Even if I had lost today it would have been good because I’m back on the court.”
Federer returned to action at the Hopman Cup in Perth a fortnight ago, but has not played a tour-level match since his semi-final defeat to Milos Raonic at Wimbledon in July. After finding a way past fellow veteran Melzer he will have to test himself against a youngster in the second round. The Swiss will meet 20-year-old Noah Rubin in the second round as the former Wimbledon boys’ champion beat fellow American Bjorn Fratangelo 6-7(4) 7-5 3-6 6-2 6-2.
While Federer was largely untroubled against Melzer, Swiss No.1 Stan Wawrinka survived a major scare against Martin Klizan. The Slovakian led the three-time Grand Slam champion by a break in the final set before Wawrinka prevailed 4-6 6-4 7-5 4-6 6-4.
It would have been the second time Wawrinka lost in the first round at a major after winning the previous Grand Slam – the US Open champion also lost in the first round at Roland Garros after winning the 2014 Australian Open.
But the No.4 seed survived to reach the second round, where he will face Americ Steve Johnson, a straight-sets winner against Federico Delbonis.
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