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Federer Recovers to Win Five-Set Match at Wimbledon

Defending champion Roger Federer recovered from a two-sets-to-love deficit to defeat 60th-ranked Alejandro Falla in the opening round of Wimbledon.

The Swiss, a six-time champion, beat the Colombian 5-7, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-1), 6-0. 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 to love down at Wimbledon.

“You can draw from experience and your inner strength and it brings you through,” Federer told the British Broadcasting Corp. immediately after the match. “He played great, it wasn’t that I was just playing badly and making lots of unforced errors. I actually thought I played well.”

Former women’s No. 1 Kim Clijsters beat Maria Elena Camerin in straight sets on her first appearance at tennis’s only grass court Grand Slam since 2006, while No. 4 seed Jelena Jankovic also advanced.

Men’s No. 7 seed Nikolay Davydenko of Russia needed five sets to beat South Africa’s Kevin Anderson. No. 11 seed Marin Cilic and No. 17 Ivan Ljubicic, both from Croatia, lost.

Sampras’s Record

Federer, who is seeking to tie Pete Sampras’s Open era men’s record of seven titles at the All England Club in London, struggled with his serve and backhand through the first two sets. Federer then fended off a breakpoint for a 5-4 lead in the third set with a forehand winner.

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

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 last lost in the first round of a Grand Slam at the French Open seven years ago.

Men’s top seed 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.

Federer got a standing ovation from crowd when he walked onto Centre Court. Last year he became only the sixth man to win all four majors after he triumphed at the French Open, then claimed a record-breaking 15th Grand Slam singles title at Wimbledon and took his 16th at the start of the season at the Australian Open.

Sixth Appearance

Falla was making his sixth Wimbledon appearance, and has never made it past the second round. He made his first Grand Slam third round at the Australian Open this year. Falla had his first quarterfinals on grass at a tournament in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands, last week. He had only beaten a top 10 player twice in his career.

Federer said at a news conference yesterday he had overcome a “disappointing” run after the Australian Open and wasn’t worried about not winning a tournament since he beat Andy Murray in Melbourne.

The Swiss was upset by Sweden’s Robin Soderling in the quarterfinals of the French Open, ending his record streak of 23 straight Grand Slam semifinals. He lost to Lleyton Hewitt in the final at Halle, his first defeat there since 2002, a week before Wimbledon.

Hewitt’s Loss

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

“I found my game again in Madrid,” said Federer, who lost in the Madrid Masters finals on clay to second seed Nadal in May. “Played well in Paris. In Halle I think the performances were good. That’s why I’m confident for Wimbledon now,” he said yesterday.

Davydenko overcame Anderson 3-6, 6-7 (3-7), 7-3, 7-5, 9-7 in a 4-hour, 13-minute match to reach the second round for only a fourth time in nine attempts. Cilic, a semifinalist at this year’s Australia Open, lost to Florian Mayer of Germany, and Ljubicic lost to Michal Przysiezny of Poland, both in straight sets.

Mardy Fish of the U.S., runnerup at Queen’s on June 13, and Gael Monfils, Feliciano Lopez, Albert Montanes and Victor Hanescu were other winners. Austria’s Jurgen Melzer, the No. 16 seed, beat Dustin Brown -- the first Jamaican at Wimbledon since 1970 -- in four sets.

Clijsters, twice a semifinalist at Wimbledon and the winner of two Grand Slam titles, won 6-0, 6-3 on Court 2 against Camerin of Italy. The 27-year-old Belgian is now ranked No. 8 by the WTA Tour.

Serbia’s Jankovic defeated 16-year-old British wildcard Laura Robson 6-3, 7-6 (7-5).

Bartoli Win

No. 11 seed Marion Bartoli of France, runner-up in 2007, beat Germany’s Julia Goerges 6-4, 6-3, while Russian seeds Nadia Petrova, Vera Zvonareva, Alisa Kleybanova, and Maria Kirilenko advanced. Kazakhstan’s Yaroslava Shvedova also secured a secon-round spot.

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