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Wimbledon: Roger Federer wins first-round match in five sets

June 21, 2010 |  8:49 am
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Top-seeded and defending champion Roger Federer won his first-round Wimbledon match on Centre Court on Monday. He didn’t lose a game in the final set.

It was the four sets preceding that offered the challenge.

Needing every bit of his cleverness and will, Federer eliminated 59th-ranked Alejandro Falla of Colombia 5-7, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (1), 6-0. Falla had a chance to serve for the match in the third set and was up service breaks in the fourth.

“I struggled, really,” Federer said. “I got very lucky today out there. I’ve lost many matches this year I should have won. This is one I should have lost. He was able to neutralize me from the baseline."

When Falla served for the first set against Federer, it was a little ho-hum -- especially when Falla fell behind 0-30. Falla held serve, however, and won the first set.

So it would be a four-set win for Federer on Centre Court. Except Falla, with his scruffy sort-of beard and sad eyes, then won the second set, too. Falla was taking chances, pushing Federer around, keeping the fleet-footed Federer flat-footed and clumsily chasing after air on the baseline.

After winning the second set and even after needing the trainer to work on his left groin muscle, Falla got the first advantage in the third set.

The last time Federer lost in the first round of a major tournament was at the French Open in 2003. The last time he’d lost in the first round of Wimbledon was in 2002.

But slowly Federer began finding his way. Not always, but enough. He made a couple of softly hit drop shots that paid off. He would hit the occasional wicked cross-court backhand, one we’re used to seeing but hadn’t seen much of Monday afternoon.

By the time Falla, a 26-year-old whose best result here had three second-round finishes, lost the fourth set tiebreak and won only a point, it was clear who the winner would be. But Federer grumbled about his form afterward. Defending this title and winning his record-tying seventh Wimbledon might not come easily.

-- Diane Pucin in Wimbledon, England

Photo: Roger Federer hits a return to Colombia's Alejandro Falla on Monday. Credit: Toby Melville / Reuters.

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