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Federer fights way out of tight spot in opening round

WIMBLEDON, England — The situation was so unfamiliar to Roger Federer, so "uncomfortable," to use his term.

On a surface he rules, at a tournament he owns, against an opponent he dominates, Federer found himself in serious trouble Monday: He dropped the first two sets against 60th-ranked Alejandro Falla of Colombia, then was a mere three points from losing in the first round of Wimbledon.

"I had Federer against the ropes," Falla would say later.

Eventually, the unheralded Falla succumbed to some jitters, and six-time Wimbledon champion Federer called upon his experience, summoned his customary excellence, overcame the daunting deficit and pulled away to win 5-7, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-1), 6-0 in the event's opening Centre Court match.

"You definitely feel, you know, uncomfortable, because if you're used to being down the whole time, your whole life, it's something that's kind of normal. For me, it's not normal to be down two-sets-to-love, especially at Wimbledon and early on in Grand Slams. It's something I'm not quite used to," said the top-seeded Federer, who hampered himself with seven double faults. "But still, I was able to find a way. That's most important right now. Doesn't matter how I felt out there. Didn't feel great, that's for sure."

Had Falla finished off Federer, it would have been one of the most stunning upsets in the history of tennis — perhaps the most stunning, taking into account the participants, the setting and the round.

Consider the players' resumes entering the day:

• Federer was 92-13 for his career on grass, including 76-2 since 2003; Falla was 7-11.

• Federer was 51-5 for his career at Wimbledon, with those six championships and a record seven consecutive final appearances; Falla was 3-5 and never got past the second round at the All England Club.

• Federer was 199-28 with a record 16 titles in Grand Slam action and reached the final at 18 of the past 20 major tournaments; Falla was 11-14, only once making it as far as the third round at a Slam.

"I don't think anyone expected it," said No. 5 Andy Roddick, a three-time Wimbledon runnerup who beat Rajeev Ram 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 later Monday. "Everyone was pretty surprised, especially when it became very, very real there in the latter stages."

No. 3 Novak Djokovic, the 2008 Australian Open champion, appeared on his way to an early exit, but he came back to beat Olivier Rochus 4-6, 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 in a match that finished about 11 p.m.

There was one surprise of significance in the women's draw: No. 5-seeded Francesca Schiavone lost 6-7 (7-0), 7-5, 6-1 to 47th-ranked Vera Dushevina, making Schiavone only the second reigning French Open women's champion to lose in the first round at Wimbledon in the 42-year Open era.

"I didn't have a lot of energy (Monday)," Schiavone said. "It was very close, but she took advantage of her chances, and I didn't."

Venus Williams adhered to Wimbledon's strict dress code, switching from the black lace outfit that drew so much attention at the French Open to more traditional attire.

"Here it's all about white," Williams said after eliminating Rossana de los Rios 6-3, 6-2. "There is no illusion this time. My dress was inspired by Tina Turner. … It's just a fun, elegant dress."

Her bid for a sixth Wimbledon championship got off to a much more straightforward start than Federer's quest for a record-tying seventh.

FAST FACTS

Wimbledon

Through July 4 at All England Club

Today's top matches: Men — Kei Nishikori vs. Rafael Nadal (2); Robin Soderling (6) vs. Robby Ginepri; Robert Kendrick vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (10); Jan Hajek vs. Andy Murray (4); Robin Haase vs. James Blake; Women — Serena Williams (1) vs. Michelle Larcher De Brito; Caroline Wozniacki (3) vs. Tathiana Garbin; Anastasia Pivovarova vs. Maria Sharapova (16)

TV: 7 a.m., noon ESPN2;

9:30, 2 p.m. ESPNU

Federer fights way out of tight spot in opening round 06/21/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 22, 2010 5:03pm]
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