Federer, Down Two Sets to Falla, Wins Opener in Five Sets at Wimbledon

Six-time champion Roger Federer recovered from a two-set deficit to defeat 60th-ranked Alejandro Falla in the opening round of Wimbledon.

Federer, the defending champion and top seed, beat the Colombian 5-7, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-1), 6-0 after coming within five points of defeat in the third set. Had Falla won, it would have been the first time a defending champion lost in the opening match since 2003. It was the first time the Swiss came back from two sets down at Wimbledon.

“It was a tough match,” Federer said in a news conference. “He played really well and I struggled early on but came through, which is most important.”

Third-seeded Novak Djokovic of Serbia defeated Olivier Rochus of Belgium in a five-set match that ended at 10:59 p.m., the latest in Wimbledon history, under the Centre Court roof that was installed last year.

Three-time runnerup Andy Roddick, seeded fifth, won in straight sets against fellow American Rajeev Ram. No. 7 Nikolay Davydenko of Russia needed five sets to beat South Africa’s Kevin Anderson. No. 11 Marin Cilic and No. 17 Ivan Ljubicic, both from Croatia, and No. 20 Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland all lost first-round matches today.

Italy’s Francesca Schiavone, the women’s fifth seed and French Open champion, lost 7-6 (7-0), 5-7, 1-6 to Russia’s Vera Dushevina, while former No. 1 Kim Clijsters of Belgium beat Italy’s Maria Elena Camerin in straight sets in her first appearance since 2006 at tennis’s only grass-court Grand Slam event. Justine Henin was another ex- No. 1 to win, and current No. 2 Venus Williams also advanced.

Venus Williams Wins

Williams defeated Paraguay’s Rossana de los Rios, winning 6-3, 6-2. The 30-year-old American is a five-time winner of the tournament and was runner-up to sister Serena, this year’s top seed, last year.

Belgium’s Henin advanced with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Latvia’s Anastasija Sevastova. Ana Ivanovic of Serbia failed to reach at least the third round for the first time with a 6-3, 6-4 loss to Shahar Peer of Israel.

Federer, who is seeking to tie Pete Sampras’s Open era men’s record of seven titles at the All England Club in London, was five points from defeat in the third set. He struggled with his serve and backhand through the first two sets, and saved a break point at 4-4 in the third set that would have given Falla a 5-4 lead and a chance to serve for the match. Falla did serve for the match in the fourth set, but Federer’s service break eventually forced a tiebreaker.

Falla, a 26-year-old left-hander, hasn’t beaten a top- 10 player since he defeated No. 9 Tommy Haas in Miami three years ago. Federer is No. 2 in the world behind Rafael Nadal in the ATP Rankings.

Federer-Falla History

Federer had won his four previous matches against Falla without dropping a set, including a 2004 second-round match at Wimbledon. The 28-year-old Federer last lost in the first round of a Grand Slam at the French Open seven years ago.

Federer is the 11-8 favorite at British bookmaker William Hill Plc to win the tournament. He has appeared in every Wimbledon final since 2003 and only lost once, in 2008, to Nadal.

Falla, making his sixth Wimbledon appearance, has never been past the second round. He made his first Grand Slam third-round appearance at the Australian Open this year. His first quarterfinal match on grass came in the Netherlands last week.

“It is amazing for me playing the opening match on Centre Court against Federer, playing such a great match as I did,” Falla said in a news conference. “I just enjoyed the match. I’m really happy because I played well.”

Federer Win Drought

Federer has not won a tournament since he beat Andy Murray to claim the Australian Open title in late January for his record 16th Grand Slam championship. He was upset by Sweden’s Robin Soderling in the quarterfinals of the French Open, ending his record streak of 23 straight Grand Slam semifinals, and lost to Lleyton Hewitt in the final of a grass-court tournament in Halle, Germany, a week before Wimbledon.

Hewitt was the most recent defending champion to lose in the first round at Wimbledon, falling seven years ago to then No. 203-ranked Ivo Karlovic of Croatia.

Hewitt avoided a first-round exit today, recovering from losing the opening set against Maximo Gonzalez of Argentina to triumph 5-7, 6-0, 6-2, 6-2.

Roddick Defeats Ram

Roddick defeated Ram 6-3, 6-2, 6-2. The 2003 U.S. Open champion, who has never lost before the third round at Wimbledon, said tennis fans respond to him differently since he lost to Federer in five sets in the Wimbledon final last year.

“I felt that everywhere,” he said in a news conference. “It wasn’t just coming here into London that kind of sparked it. Obviously, when I talk to people, that’s what they want to talk about most times.”

Mardy Fish of the U.S., runnerup at the Queen’s Club grass-court tournament on June 13, was a first-round winner. Austria’s Jurgen Melzer, the No. 16 seed, beat Dustin Brown -- the first Jamaican at Wimbledon since 1970 -- in four sets.

To contact the reporter on this story: Danielle Rossingh at Wimbledon through the London sports desk at drossingh@bloomberg.net

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