17th seeded Roger Federer made a winning return to competition as he beat Austrian qualifier Jurgen Melzer, 7-5, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 to enter the second round of the 2017 Australian Open at Melbourne on Monday. This was the former World No. 1’s first official match since the 2016 Wimbledon Championships where he bowed out in the semi-finals.
The 17-time Major winner finished with 19 aces, 46 winners and 36 unforced errors.
Federer called off the rest of the season to rehabilitate his knee after having undergone a surgery back in February. The hiatus affected his ranking and has seen him plummeting to a lowly 17th.
Federer ekes out a tough first set
Federer’s mounting unforced errors certainly didn’t help his cause early in the match and it was the Austrian qualifier who struck early with a blazing backhand winner to go up, 4-2. However, his joy was short-lived as the former World No. 1 soon levelled matters at 4-4.
A bit of passivity crept into his play thereafter and it aided the Austrian to keep it going till 5-5. It was in the 11th game that Federer finally found his missing aggression and kept his errors in check. He carved out three break points and converted the very first one when Melzer's shot landed long.
A rattled Melzer never found a way back as Federer grew in confidence and he served out the set to love, 7-5.
Melzer comes back from behind to take the second set
Having eked out a tough opener, the 17-time Grand Slam champion looked freer and made a breakthrough in the very first game of the second set. Even though Melzer forced a deuce in Federer’s subsequent service game, the Swiss maestro came up with a beautiful inside-out forehand that landed right on the line to lead 2-0.
Federer failed to keep the advantage for a long time as the Austrian took control of the set soon after. With both being 35 years, they certainly were very familiar with each other's games. Besides, Melzer was the one who won their last meeting.
The Austrian brought out that game as Federer seemed to be lacking in sharpness. With a forehand unforced error, the Swiss conceded a vital break to let his opponent even it, 3-3. Melzer refused to relent and secured another break to race ahead to 5-3 with a fabulous backhand winner. The Austrian began exhibiting all those skills which took him to the World No. 8 ranking in singles once apart from enabling him to win two doubles Grand Slams.
Banking on his sublime net game, the World No. 300 grabbed the second set, 6-3 to level the match.
Federer steadies the ship
Federer steadied the ship in the fourth game of the third set by mixing up his shots and incorporating more serve-and-volley in his returns. With a surprised Melzer finding only the tramlines, Federer broke and then consolidated to open up a big lead of 4-1.
Federer’s persistent forays into the net earned him another break point in the sixth game but Melzer too displayed his finesse to erase it pretty soon and held on.
There was evidently a spring in Federer’s steps with the 17th seed clearly feeling more assured of his game. The Swiss waltzed to 2 sets to 1 up by breaking Melzer in the eighth game.
Federer kept on rushing to the net to make a brilliant putaway at the net en route to getting a break in the fourth game of the fourth set. Melzer once again put pressure on Federer’s serve, who summoned a couple of aces to sneak his way out for 4-1.
The four-time Australian Open champion dominated the rest of the set as Melzer ran out of options and the match ended with yet another unforced error coming from his racquet.