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Federer made to work by qualifier, Berdych next

/ 04:32 PM January 18, 2017
Switzerland's Roger Federer makes a backhand return to United States' Noah Rubin during their second round match at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

Switzerland’s Roger Federer makes a backhand return to United States’ Noah Rubin during their second round match at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

Roger Federer sized up his first big test at the Australian Open Wednesday after he fought off spirited qualifier Noah Rubin to set up a third-round clash with old rival Tomas Berdych.

The 17-time Grand Slam master, back after an injury-hit 2016, vanquished the 200th-ranked American, 7-5, 6-3, 7-6 (7/3) to go into his 23rd career encounter with Berdych, the big-serving Czech.

It was Federer’s second win against a qualifier at this year’s Open after he defeated experienced Austrian Jurgen Melzer in four sets on Monday.

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Federer, 35, said he likes the way things are coming together at the year’s first major tournament, but he knows he will have to lift his game against the 10th-ranked Berdych.

“It’s super-early in the draw. The court plays fast, he’s caused difficulties for me in the past on faster courts,” Federer said of Berdych.

“I know what he’s got. I don’t need to tell you where he’s beaten me. Then again I’ve played him here, played him on many occasions, as well, when it went my way.”

Federer enters the new year as the 17th seed following knee surgery which forced him to miss a chunk of last season, including the Rio Olympic Games.

The Swiss great also dropped out of the world’s top 10 for the first time in more than 14 years in November, and did not qualify for the ATP World Tour Finals for the first time since 2001.

But Federer, as a master tennis technician, is assessing what needs to be done to get back up the rankings and challenge for more major titles.

‘Not pretty’

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“If I could have signed this to be in the third round, feeling this way, weeks or days or a month ago, I would have taken it,” he said.

“I’m still hoping to feel better and better as we go along.

“But it’s really important for me to get through these first early rounds, get a sense of how is the game, how is the ball, how is the body, how is everything.

“I’m getting tons of information out of these last few days now, which is big hopefully for the third round.”

Federer said he was impressed with Rubin, who only grabbed one service break but was within a few points of taking the match into a fourth set.

“I was very impressed by Noah. I thought he played really well,” he said. “I feel like he’s going to have a great, consistent career. The question now is how far can he go.”

Federer stormed back from 2-5 down in the final set to force a tiebreaker.

His match-big experience and nous was enough to pull him through and take the match in 2hr 4min on Rod Laver Arena.

“I was hoping to play better at times. I think you can always do better. At the end of the day you have to be happy with what you did,” he said.

“Have to be happy with the little things. Sometimes it’s not going to be pretty. Sometimes it’s just going to be a fight. Today that’s what I thought it was for me.”

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TAGS: Australian Open, Roger Federer, Tomas Berdych
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