Wimbledon: Relieved Federer back from the brink
Roger Federer admitted that at one point he was in “disarray” during a dramatic victory over Alejandro Falla which saw the defending Wimbledon champion flirt with disaster.
World number 60 Falla took the opening two sets and then secured three break points to put himself in position to serve for the match, before eventually succumbing 5-7 4-6 6-4 7-6 (7/1) 6-0.
Federer identified the ninth game of the third set, when he was down 0-40, as the point when his title defence was in greatest danger.
“That was the moment I felt was the toughest because if I wouldn't have come out of that game, I don't think I would have broken the next one,” said the top seed.
“My whole game was sort of in disarray. I was just hoping that I could get three quick serves to come back.
“But I had to come up with some passing shots, some scrambling shots.
“There was definitely a bit of luck involved there. It's normal with the chances he had, the way I came out of this match.
“I definitely got lucky but that's how it goes sometimes.”
Colombian Falla was facing Federer for the third successive tournament.
“Everybody wants to play Federer, but three times in one month is a lot,” he said.
“I knew I was playing very well, I just wanted to go out and play my best. I am happy because I played a great match.”
Andy Roddick was in imperious form as he swept aside compatriot Rajeev Ram 6-3 6-2 6-2 in an all-American showdown on Court One.
“That was pretty solid all around. I served good percentages and returned well,” said the fifth seed.
“It was probably a little more straightforward than I thought it might be, so it's a good start.”
Croatian seeds Marin Cilic and Ivan Ljubicic both suffered first-round defeats.
Cilic, the 11th seed, lost 6-2 6-4 7-6 (7-1) to Germany's Florian Mayer while Michal Przysiezny of Poland dispatched 17th seed Ljubicic 7-5 7-6 (7-5) 6-3.
Lleyton Hewitt recovered from a sluggish start to show why he could be a Wimbledon contender this year.
The 29-year-old Australian was champion in 2002 and has also won four titles on the Queen's Club lawn during his career.
As recently as the start of this month he beat Roger Federer on grass in the final of the Gerry Weber Open in Halle, Germany.
World number 159 Maximo Gonzalez of Argentina was therefore not expected to pose Hewitt any serious trouble, but he captured the first set to briefly threaten an upset. However, Hewitt, backed by an army of Australian fans, as is customary at Wimbledon, picked up his form and powered through the next three sets to win 5-7 6-0 6-2 6-2.
Seeded 15th this year, having been bumped up from his world ranking which currently stands at 26, Hewitt will face Evgeny Korolev of Kazakhstan next after his four-set victory against Argentinian Eduardo Schwank.
Spanish 22nd seed Feliciano Lopez beat Jesse Levine of the USA 7-6 3-6 6-2 6-3 to march into the second round.
Rainer Schuettler of Germany made light of Russian Dmitry Tursunov with a 6-2 6-2 6-3 win on Court 11.
In a marathon match on Court One, seventh seed Nikolay Davydenko took four and a quarter hours to see off South African Kevin Anderson 3-6 6-7 (3-7) 7-6 (7-3) 7-5 9-7. There were also wins for American Mardy Fish, French 21st seed Gael Monfils and Czech 12th seed Tomas Berdych.
Novak Djokovic overcame Olivier Rochus 4-6 6-2 3-6 6-4 6-2.