Australian Open 2017

It’s a bit like coming home, says Roger Federer as he makes winning return from six-month layoff

Swiss ace wins first-round match against Jurgen Melzer at Australian Open and remarks that ‘it’s nice to be playing normal tennis again’

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 January, 2017, 11:34pm
UPDATED : Monday, 16 January, 2017, 11:34pm

Roger Federer returned from a six-month layoff to beat fellow 35-year-old Jurgen Melzer just before midnight on day one of the Australian Open, agreeing it felt a bit like coming home.

The 17-time major winner hadn’t played at tour level since Wimbledon, giving his injured left knee time to heal.

He served 19 aces and had only one double fault in a 7-5, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 win on Monday over Melzer, but dropped serve three times and had moments of frustration.

“It’s nice to be playing normal tennis again,” he said. “It was a long road [but] I’m in the draw, which is a beautiful thing.”

Federer surprised himself by still feeling nervous when the match started, and took a while to settle down.

“I was fine all day ... I felt fine. Then I hit four frames in a row,” he said. “Think I struggled for a while to find that groove, that rhythm.”

Federer has won four Australian titles and reached the semi-finals or better in 12 of the previous 13 years, and making himself at home on Rod Laver Arena.

He’ll play another qualifier in the second round after Noah Rubin beat Bjorn Fratangelo.

Plenty of highly-ranked players concurred that first rounds are never easy, including defending champion and top-ranked Angelique Kerber and US Open champion Stan Wawrinka.

Kerber, who is defending a major title and is also the No 1 seed at a grand slam for the first time, had some nervous moments in her 6-2, 5-7, 6-2 win over Lesia Tsurenko.

Wawrinka, who made his grand slam breakthrough in Australia in 2014, had a tough time in the first night match on Margaret Court Arena, scraping past 35th-ranked Martin Klizan 4-6, 6-4, 7-5, 4-6, 6-4.

In the ninth game of the fifth set, Wawrinka smashed a soft half-volley from Klizan straight back into the Slovakian’s body, clipping the frame and just missing his midsection. He stepped over the net to ensure Klizan was OK, then went on to hold serve and broke in the next game to finish off in three hours, 24 minutes.