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Tennis | Wimbledon

Federer, Davydenko dallies with early exit



Roger Federer averted one of the biggest shocks in Wimbledon history when the defending men's champion recovered from two sets down to beat Colombia's Alejandro Falla in the first round on Monday.

The Swiss top seed seemed woefully out of form as his unfancied opponent, the world number 60, stunned the crowd by taking the first two sets in the first match on Centre Court this year.

But the six-time Wimbledon champion recovered to win 5-7, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/1), 6-0.

Federer, who is chasing a record-equalling seventh Wimbledon men's title, has only lost once at the All England Club since 2002, when he lost the 2008 final to Rafael Nadal.

But he avoided becoming only the third ever defending men's Wimbledon champion to lose in the first round by recovering his game.

Federer had won all four of his previous encounters with Falla in straight sets, including both of their last two tournaments - two weeks ago on the grass at Halle, and in the French Open.

They also met here on Centre Court in the second round in 2004, during Falla's debut at the All England Club, as the Swiss defending champion went on to claim his second Wimbledon title.

But despite Federer's previous dominance, the Colombian visibly grew in confidence in the first set, which went with serve until 5-5.

Falla then created two break points on Federer's serve and converted the second with a well-timed volley to stun the Centre Court crowd.

The Swiss then went 0-30 up on his opponent's serve but Falla dug in and won the set when Federer hit a cross-court forehand out.

In the second set, Falla managed to break again for a 4-3 lead.

At 5-4, Federer had game point, but he hit the net with a return to take it to deuce.

After a string of deuces, in which the advantage swung both ways, Falla eventually triumphed with a drop shot over the net to shock the crowd further by taking a two-set lead.

In a key game at 4-4 in the third set, the Colombian had three break points, but Federer pulled it back to deuce.

Falla took the advantage but the champion levelled, then held the advantage after a duel at the net, before serving an ace for a 5-4 lead.

Federer had a break for set point when Falla hit a shot long, but the Colombian took it to deuce with a superb shot down the line.

Federer had the advantage when Falla hit the net, and won the set with a cross-court forehand winner which landed just inside the line to start his comeback.

Falla broke on the deuce in the first game of the fourth set to give himself an excellent chance of finishing off his opponent.

Federer had a break point at 4-3 down but wasted it, Falla taking the game when Federer sent another mistimed shot looping out. The Swiss held serve to leave the Colombian serving for the match at 5-4 up.

Federer took two break points and levelled at 5-5 as Falla fired long, and the Swiss made it 6-5 with an excellent slice over the net - the kind of skilful execution that had hitherto been so badly lacking from his game.

In the tie break, Federer broke early and never looked back, taking it 7/1.

Federer broke in the first and third games of the fifth set, and finally began to dominate his opponent, eventually showing the form that has made him an all-time Wimbledon great as he at last exerted his superior skill.

DAVYDENKO BATTLES

Russian seventh seed Nikolay Davydenko fought back to beat South Africa's Kevin Anderson 3-6, 6-7 (3/7), 7-6 (7/3), 7-5, 9-7 in the first round.

Davydenko has never played with much conviction on the lush lawns of south-west London and he seemed set for another early exit as Anderson surged into a two-set lead on Court One.

But the 29-year-old's pedigree is undeniable, as he proved by winning the ATP World Tour finals on his last visit to London in December, and he eventually managed to subdue the 6ft 8in big-server from Johannesburg.

Davydenko, a former French and US Open semifinalist, had failed to make it past the first round on five of his previous eight visits to Wimbledon, but he could surpass his best effort, reaching the fourth round in 2007, if he continues to play with such determination.

Anderson took the first set impressively and then swept Davydenko aside in the second set tie-break.

With Davydenko looking completely out of sorts, it was no surprise to see Anderson break in the third set and take a 4-2 lead.

But Anderson was unable to serve out the match and this time Davydenko took control of the tie-break to pull a set back.

It proved the turning point. Davydenko was starting to get into his rhythm and took the fourth set as well after breaking at 6-5.

The final set was a gruelling affair but it was Davydenko who held his nerve to clinch a dramatic win.

RODDICK STROLLS

Three-time Wimbledon runner-up Andy Roddick cruised into the second round at the All England Club with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 win over fellow American Rajeev Ram.

Roddick, the fifth seed, was back in action at Wimbledon for the first time since his 16-14 last set defeat to Roger Federer in last year's final.

That was Roddick's third failure to get the better of Federer in the Wimbledon final after previous defeats in 2004 and 2005.

A disappointing recent run of results, including an early exit from the pre-Wimbledon warm-up event at Queen's Club - traditionally the venue for some of Roddick's best tennis, had led some to question his ability to mount another challenge for the title this year.

But the former US Open champion remains convinced he has the attributes needed to win Wimbledon and he displayed all his grass-courts skills in a brutal destruction of Ram, the world number 92.

The 27-year-old's gracious and emotional speech in the immediate aftermath of that loss against Federer 12 months ago only served to cement Roddick in the affections of the Wimbledon public.

And he gave the Court One crowd exactly what they wanted as he bludgeoned Ram into submission with his powerful serves and a series of well-constructed winners from the back of the court.

If the first set was comfortable enough for Roddick, the second was a complete walkover as Ram found it impossible to make any impact on his opponent's serve.

When Roddick broke for a 3-2 lead in the third set, the last trace of Ram's resolve crumbled and the American was soon closing out the win.

CILIC BROUGHT DOWN

Croatian 11th seed Marin Cilic was the first big casualty in the men's draw after a straight sets loss in the first round to German Florian Mayer.

Cilic, 21, reached the Australian Open semis in January and claimed some notable victims during the claycourt season but he won just one match at Queen's and succumbed to a disappointing 6-2 6-4 7-6 defeat against the world number 59.

Mayer, who reached the quarterfinals on debut in 2004 here before injury halted his rise up the rankings, prevailed in a minute over two hours.

The German will play Queen's runner-up Mardy Fish of the US for a place in the third round.

TAIWAN'S LU CRUISES

Taiwan's Lu Yen-Hsun made it safely through to the second round with a 7-5, 6-4, 6-3 win over Horacio Zeballos of Argentina.

Lu's win, his first opening round victory here since 2005, added to the victory of compatriot Chan Yung-Jan, who reached the second round of the women's singles for the first time in her career after a 6-0, 6-2 win over Swiss veteran Patty Schnyder.

Lu, 26, served 18 aces as he put away the Argentinian, in their first ever meeting, in exactly two hours to earn a second round tie against Poland's Michal Przysiezny.

Zeballos and Lu were tied at 5-5 in the first set when the Argentine handed his opponent a crucial advantage by double-faulting at break point.

World number 82 Lu held his serve comfortably throughout against a man ranked 38 places above him and Zeballos did not earn a single break point throughout the three sets.

Lu broke Zeballos in the opening game of the second set and in the seventh and ninth games of the third set to reach the second round of a Grand Slam tournament for only the sixth time in his career.

He has made the third round just once - at the Australian Open in 2009.

DJOKOVIC OVERCOMES ROCHUS

Serbian third seed Novak Djokovic recovered from an early onslaught by Olivier Rochus and a mid-match closing of the Centre Court roof to book his place in the Wimbledon second round on Monday.

Djokovic, who trailed 3-1 in career meetings against the feisty 5-ft-5 Belgian, looked set for an early exit after Rochus's crisp groundstrokes and shrewd shot placement gave him a two sets to one lead.

But Djokovic seemed reinvigorated once fading light prompted the closure of the roof after the third set and clinched the fourth before going on to seal a 4-6 6-2 3-6 6-4 6-2 triumph.

The Serb will play American Taylor Dent in the second round.

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