‘Good feel­ing’ to be back, says Fed

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

MEL­BOURNE: Roger Fed­erer yes­ter­day made a winning re­turn to com­pet­i­tive ten­nis af­ter six months out of the game, thrilling a packed Rod Laver Arena as he beat qual­i­fier Juer­gen Melzer 7-5, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 to reach the Aus­tralian Open sec­ond round.

The Swiss had to battle hard through­out the match against his fel­low 35-year-old and only pulled clear of his dogged op­po­nent when the Aus­trian tired in the fi­nal set.

Even Fed­erer could be for­given a lit­tle rusti­ness af­ter his pro­longed ab­sence due to a knee in­jury and he made 36 un­forced er­rors in his two hours and six min­utes on court.

There were, though, plenty of re­minders of the bril­liant shot-mak­ing that have helped Fed­erer to 17 Grand Slam ti­tles and his 46-26 ad­van­tage over Melzer in the win­ner count told the tale of what was ul­ti­mately a com­fort­able win.

The crowd cheered ev­ery one to the rafters and, while that pleased Fed­erer, he was clearly just de­lighted to be back do­ing what he does best.

“I def­i­nitely see things a bit dif­fer­ent when you’ve been gone for a long time or when you’ve come back from in­jury,” he said.

“It was great to be out there. I re­ally en­joyed my­self, even though it wasn’t so sim­ple.

“Now be­ing here, feel­ing like I’m part of this tour­na­ment. I wasn’t just in the draw, I’m ac­tu­ally mak­ing strides. It’s a good feel­ing.”

Al­though he hit 19 aces and in­creas­ingly re­lied on his serve to get out of trou­ble, Fed­erer was sur­prised at how long it took him to feel com­fort­able with that part of his game.

“There were def­i­nitely some nerves there,” he added. “I was feel­ing ner­vous once the match ac­tu­ally started.

“Think I strug­gled for a while to find that groove, that rhythm and every­thing. Then you re­mind your­self how many times has it not been easy in the first round.”

The se­cret to the im­prove­ment over the fi­nal two sets, he thought, had been re­lax­ing a bit.

“I almost felt like I had to pace my­self. I didn’t want to over-think ev­ery play. That was not the idea to come here and go men­tal about ev­ery point. I’m happy with the more re­laxed at­ti­tude. Also suc­cess came eas­ier.”

Seeded 17th, Fed­erer has much tougher bat­tles ahead as he con­tin­ues his bid for a fifth Mel­bourne Park ti­tle.

Next up in the sec­ond round to­mor­row, how­ever, is an­other qual­i­fier in Amer­i­can Noah Ru­bin.

Hav­ing got his first tour match since his semi­fi­nal loss to Mi­los Raonic at Wim­ble­don in July out of the way, Fed­erer thought his next en­counter would not be quite so dif­fi­cult.

“This match tonight was more based on me, how I’m go­ing to cope with my come­back and my match,” he said.

“But I’m happy with how it went. I think from here on it’s only go­ing to get eas­ier.” – Reuters

PIC­TURE: . EPA

WEL­COME BACK: Roger Fed­erer of Switzer­land in ac­tion against Jur­gen Melzer of Aus­tria dur­ing the Aus­tralian Open yes­ter­day.

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