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Return harder than I anticipated, admits Federer

By Tom Allnutt

Roger Federer admits his Australian Open comeback was more difficult than he expected after the 17-time Grand Slam champion battled past Jurgen Melzer to reach the second round.

Federer was making his first competitive appearance in more than six months and the Swiss beat Melzer 7-5 3-6 6-2 6-2.

After sitting out the second half of 2016 to overcome injuries to his left knee and back, Federer showed signs of rust but he also improved as the match went on.

How the 35-year-old's form, and fitness, copes under the pressure of tougher opposition remains to be seen but he should find leeway in round two, against qualifier Noah Rubin.

"I think there were definitely some nerves there," Federer said. "I was actually fine all day and in the warm-up I felt fine. Then I hit four frames in a row.

"It was like, 'Whew, it's not as easy as I thought it was going to be'.

"I struggled for a while to find that groove, that rhythm. Then you remind yourself how many times it hasn't been easy in the first round.

"Almost every time, except if you get off to a flyer and keep rolling.

"But that's not the whole time. So you got to work. I'm happy I was made to work."

Also through to round two is fellow Swiss Stan Wawrinka but the No.4 seed was pushed all the way by Slovakian Martin Klizan in a five-set thriller.

Wawrinka trailed by a set and then a break at 3-4 in the decider but the reigning US Open champion dug deep.

"It was a tough one, for sure," Wawrinka said. "But I'm really happy to get through in five."

Wawrinka is due for a mouthwatering clash with Nick Kyrgios in the last 16 and the Australian also progressed after thrashing Gastao Elias 6-1 6-2 6-2.

Kyrgios could not resist a slight dig at Federer, who said the 21-year-old is still not ready to win a major tournament.

"It doesn't bother me," Kyrgios said. "I know he's the greatest of all time. I know I just want to do my own thing. I played him once, I beat him once."

Kyrgios' compatriot Bernard Tomic strolled past Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci 6-2 6-1 6-4.

It was another Australian, however, who provided the story of the day as 17-year-old Alex de Minaur saved a fourth-set match point to beat Gerald Melzer 5-7 6-3 2-6 7-6 (7-2) 6-1 on his Grand Slam debut.

"Words can't describe how I'm feeling," said De Minaur, who plays American Sam Querrey in the second round. "It's definitely the happiest moment of my life."

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