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Verdasco comes back from the dead

Great escape for Federer; Sania loses in doubles too

— Photo: AFP

I'VE DONE IT:Fernando Verdasco of Spain celebrates after prevailing in five gripping sets against

MELBOURNE: Defending champion Roger Federer survived a five-set thriller to overcome Frenchman Gilles Simon and squeeze into the third round at the Australian Open on Wednesday, while Fernando Verdasco, on the losing end of the Australian Open's longest ever match two years ago, prevailed in five gripping sets against Serbia's Janko Tipsarevic 2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(0), 6-0.

Federer had to pull out all stops to get past the unseeded Simon, winning 6-2, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3 in 3 hours and 13 minutes in the Rod Laver Arena.

The Swiss World No. 2 had cruised to a two-set advantage, but Simon, who had won their only other two encounters, hit back spectacularly to take the contest into a fifth and deciding set.


Federer was relieved to escape with a five-set victory and prevent his worst Grand Slam performance since a first-round loss at the 2003 French Open.

“Today I got lucky to go through,” Federer said.

“He's a great player. Matches against him don't come easy and they always go the distance. Hopefully I won't play him any more,” he laughed.

Federer will next play Belgium's Xavier Malisse in Friday's third round.

Federer's victory equalled Swede Stefan Edberg's record (56-10) for the most Open Era wins at the Australian Open. Federer now has a 56-7 win-loss record at Melbourne Park.

The all-time Grand Slam champion with 16 major titles is bidding to become the second man to win five Australian titles behind six-time winner Roy Emerson.

The Verdasco match lasted just under four hours, bringing back memories of his record 5hr 14min epic against Rafael Nadal in the 2009 semifinals.

“I just keep fighting all the time, because I was really close to losing today,” Verdasco said. “I think that just my mentality was the key, one of the biggest keys today to my comeback.”

Elsewhere Roddick, 28, downed Igor Kunitsyn of Russia 7-6(7), 6-2, 6-3 and Czech sixth seed Tomas Berdych beat Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber in four.

“Well, I get to play again so that's all you want,” said Roddick.

“You know, it could have gotten uncomfortable today if that first set would have gotten away, but I feel like I'm hitting the ball fine.”

Novak Djokovic was dragged into a dour mid-match scrap by Ivan Dodig, but pounded the dogged Croat in the last two sets to win 7-5, 6-7, 6-0, 6-2 to reach the third round.

After conceding the first set, Dodig battled like a street-fighter in the second, winning back a break and pushing Djokovic into a tense tie-break where he unleashed a withering roar after clinching it on the third set point.

The jubilation was to prove short-lived, however, as Djokovic broke serve in the next game, then mowed through the next seven.

Dodig battled hard to prise a breakpoint at 4-1 but 2008 champion Djokovic slammed the door shut with a searing forehand winner down the line and later sealed the second of two match points with a thumping serve.

Venus survives

In the women's section, Venus Williams bravely battled through a painful injury to reach the third round. Injury-hit Williams' first tournament since the U.S. Open looked to have ended in disaster as she screamed in pain and clutched herself when losing the first set's decisive point against Czech Sandra Zahlavova.

The 30-year-old limped off for treatment and looked uncomfortable when she returned with her right thigh strapped. But the seven-time Grand Slam winner survived to beat Zahlavova 6-7(6), 6-0, 6-4.

“I don't know what happened,” Williams said. “I started going for my shots and she wasn't as composed as before — you have to able to play under all circumstances.”

Sania Mirza's campaign ended on Wednesday after she and her Czech partner Renata Voracova crashed out of the women's doubles event, losing in straight sets to top seeds Gisela Dulko and Flavia Pennetta in the opening round. Argentina's Dulko, who is the World No. 1 doubles players and her World No. 2 Italian partner Pennetta, outplayed the Indo-Czech duo 6-4, 6-1 in a contest that last just over an hour. — Agencies


Prefix denotes seedings

Men's singles (second round): 2-Roger Federer (Sui) bt Gilles Simon (Fra) 6-2, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3; 6-Tomas Berdych (Cze) bt Philipp Kohlschreiber (Ger) 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4; 28-Richard Gasquet (Fra) bt Adrian Mannarino (Fra) 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-4; Kei Nishikori (Jpn) bt Florian Mayer (Ger) 6-4, 6-3, 0-6, 6-3; 9-Fernando Verdasco (Esp) bt Janko Tipsarevic (Srb) 2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(0), 6-0; 14-Nicolas Almagro (Esp) bt Igor Andreev (Rus) 7-5, 2-6, 4-6, 7-6(10), 7-5; 17-Ivan Ljubicic (Cro) bt Benoit Paire (Fra) 6-3, 6-7(2), 6-4, 7-6(5); 29-Viktor Troicki (Srb) bt Nicolas Mahut (Fra) 6-4, 6-2, 1-6, 6-3; 8-Andy Roddick (USA) bt Igor Kunitsyn (Rus) 7-6(7), 6-2, 6-3; Robin Haase (Ned) bt 26-Juan Monaco (Arg) 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2; Tommy Robredo (Esp) bt 16-Mardy Fish (USA) 1-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3; Sergiy Stakhovsky (Ukr) bt Lukasz Kubot (Pol) 6-3, 6-4, 6-4; Xavier Malisse (Bel) bt 25-Albert Montanes (Esp) 6-4, 6-0, 6-1; 3-Novak Djokovic (Srb) bt Ivan Dodig (Cro) 7-5, 6-7(8), 6-0, 6-2; 19-Stanislas Wawrinka (Sui) bt Grigor Dimitrov (Bul) 7-5, 6-3, 6-3; 12-Gael Monfils (Fra) bt Frederico Gil (Por) 6-4, 6-3, 1-6, 6-2.

Women's singles (second round): 1-Caroline Wozniacki (Den) bt Vania King (USA) 6-1, 6-0; 29-Dominika Cibulkova (Svk) bt Alberta Brianti (Ita) 6-1, 4-6, 6-2; Anastasija Sevastova (Lat) bt 21-Yanina Wickmayer (Bel) 6-4, 6-2; Vesna Manasieva (Rus) bt 15-Marion Bartoli (Fra) 3-6, 6-3, 6-0; 11-Justine Henin (Bel) bt Elena Baltacha (GBR) 6-1, 6-3; 23-Svetlana Kuznetsova (Rus) bt Arantxa Rus (Ned) 6-1, 6-4; Monica Niculescu (Rom) bt 32-Tsvetana Pironkova (Bul) 6-4, 6-1; 6-Francesca Schiavone (Ita) bt Rebecca Marino (Can) 6-3, 5-7, 9-7; 4-Venus Williams (USA) bt Sandra Zahlavova (Cze) 6-7(6), 6-0, 6-4; Julia Goerges (Ger) bt 20-Kaia Kanepi (Est) 6-4, 3-6, 6-4; 14-Maria Sharapova (Rus) bt Virginie Razzano (Fra) 7-6(3), 6-3; Chanelle Scheepers (RSA) bt Regina Kulikova (Rus) 6-4, 4-6, 7-5; 8-Victoria Azarenka (Blr) bt Andrea Hlavackova (Cze) 6-4, 6-4; Barbora Zahlavova Strycova (Cze) bt Jelena Dokic (Aus); Li Na (Chn) bt Evgeniya Rodina (Rus) 6-3, 6-2; 30-Andrea Petkovic (Ger) bt Anne Keothavong (GBR) 2-6, 7-5, 6-0.

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