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Federer forced to fight for win

Roger Federer admitted he had been made to "battle hard" before securing victory in his Australian Open first-round clash with Andreas Seppi yesterday.

After a tough 2008 where he lost his Melbourne and Wimbledon crowns and saw Rafael Nadal usurp him as world number one, Federer kicked off his 2009 grand slam campaign with a dogged 6-1 7-6 (7-4) 7-5 victory against Seppi in the opening round of the Australian Open.

Federer was pushed all the way by the unseeded Italian and after taking just 24 minutes to win the opening set was forced into a tie-break in the second before making a late breakthrough in the third to close out the match in two hours and 21 minutes.

Despite winning the first set comfortably, Federer admitted he had struggled to adjust to the conditions in the unfamiliar night-time slot.

"I had to get used to playing at night again and I struggled with my rhythm early on in the match but all-in-all I thought it was a good match. Seppi hits a good ball and is tough to play against," the Swiss said.

"It was a close match. The second set was a close set which was key to winning. He had many chances so it was good for me to erase those. I thought I served okay and I was pretty happy with my game.

"I had to battle hard. I had to run a lot today and put in a defensive effort in the rallies. It's hard to find a weak spot in Seppi's game, forehand or backhand. He makes you run a lot."

Federer's next opponent is qualifier Evgeny Korolev, who defeated former world number one Carlos Moya 6-3 6-1 7-6 (9-7) in his opening match.

The second seed has never played the Russian but had an idea of what to expect from his second-round encounter.

"He takes big shots at the ball so I have too make sure I move him around and serve well."

Novak Djokovic was another who was given a bit of a workout on day one, although he insisted the pressure of being the defending champion was not the reason for his sometimes stuttering performance against Andrea Stoppini.

The unseeded Italian, ranked 220 in the world, gave the Serbian world number three something of a scare in the third set before Djokovic rallied to win 6-2 6-3 7-5.

Seventh seed Andy Roddick had a comfortable win against qualifier Bjorn Rehnquist in the opening match at Rod Laver Arena.

He took just one hour 46 minutes to dispatch the Swede and while his first serve was a little shaky at times, he otherwise dominated from the start on his way to a 6-0 6-2 6-2 victory.

The American will now face Belgium's Xavier Malisse, who defeated Michael Llodra 7-6 6-1 6-1, in the second round.

Marat Safin overcame a sore shoulder and Ivan Navarro 6-3 6-3 6-4 to set up a tie with Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.

Belfast Telegraph

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