Federer struggles but finally beats Simon

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

MELBOURNE - Roger Federer put the hammer down in the first two sets but then had to fight to escape with a 6-2, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3 win over tenacious Gilles Simon on Wednesday for a place in the third round of the Australian Open.

The victory required five match points for Federer, who had lost both of his previous matches with the Frenchman, the only man in the game against whom he had never won a match.

The 16-time Grand Slam winner lost both 2008 matches he played against the scrawny but powerful Frenchman who once stood inside the Top 10 before a knee injury kept him out 10 months last season.

Simon won the third and fourth sets and put the pressure on by saving four match points before Federer got out of jail with his 11th ace to claim victory after three hours.

Simon beat Federer in Canada and at the season-ending championships in 2008 when the Swiss had suffered with a case of glandular fever.

Simon showed the form which won him the Sydney title last weekend, but that was ultimately not enough against an on-form Federer, bidding for a fifth Melbourne title. Federer tuned up by claiming the trophy in Doha in the first week of 2011.

“I didn’t play poorly to lose the third and fourth,” said the relieved second seed. “Gilles took it to me. I remained positive. I’m happy I won. I got lucky, I’m still in the tournament.

“Gilles is a great player, matches with him don’t come easy. Every time we’ve played we’ve gone the distance.”

Third seed and 2008 champion Novak Djokovic beat Croatian Ivan Dodig 7-5, 6-7(8), 6-0, 6-2 and lined up a match with Serbian Davis Cup team-mate Viktor Troicki.

Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych needed a set to get untracked on the way to a defeat of German Philipp Kohlschreiber 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4.

Spanish seeds Fernando Verdasco and Nicolas Almagro turned in heroic five-set winning efforts. Number nine Verdasco presided over a meltdown from Serb Janko Tipsarevic, 2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(0), 6-0. Number 14 Almagro put out Russian Igor Andreev 7-5, 2-6, 4-6, 7-6(10), 7-5.

There were also wins for Andy Roddick, Gael Monfils and Tommy Robredo.

Women’s former finalist Venus Williams came close to retiring hurt, but took a medical timeout for treatment and recouped her fighting resources to struggle past Czech Sandra Zahlavova 6-7(6), 6-0, 6-4.

“I’m going to just try to recover for Friday and try to get ready to play and bring my best tennis no matter what. Hopefully I’ll come through it,” she said, looking ahead at a third-round date with German 30th seed Andrea Petkovic.

“You have to get past the fear of getting worse and feel it out and see how it’s feeling. So thankful I was able to get some games on the scoreboard, and that helped a ton.”

It was a similar - is less dramatic - scenario for French Open champion Francesca Schiavone, who had to hold off a spirited Canadian challenge from Canadian number 104 Rebecca Marino 6-3, 5-7, 9-7 as the outsider saved three match points and sent the contest into a deciding set.

Williams, who had not played since a US Open semi-final four months ago, has been jinxed by injury over the past year. The 30-year-old played only nine events and 45 matches in 2010.

Williams suffered an abdominal on a high backhand late in the first set and was taken off court for a strapping amid great uncertainty. But the veteran eventually rose from the depths to overwhelm the Czech and scratch through for the unexpected victory,

“I’m such long way from home, I didn’t want to go home yet. I just started going for shots,” said the 2003 Melbourne finalist Williams.

It was tennis lite for two other seeds as number one Caroline Wozniacki and seven-time Grand Slam winner Justine Henin both powered through, losing only five games between them.

Dane Wozniacki, still seeking a first title at a major to validate her new WTA number one ranking, crushed American Vania King, a Grand Slam doubles finalist, 6-1, 6-0.

Belgian Henin, who topped the rankings before she retired at the height of her powers but returned to tennis a year ago, was untouchable as she put out British player Elena Baltacha 6-1, 6-3.

Wozniacki went through in 58 minutes, winning 55 total points to just 25 for King. Henin fired seven aces over Baltacha, breaking four times.

Eighth seed Victoria Azarenka defeated Czech Andrea Hlavackova 6-4, 6-4 while former champion Maria Sharapova, the number 14, beat Virginie Razzano of France 7-6 (7-3), 6-3.

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