Melbourne: Roger Federer didn't have things all his own way as he got past spirited American qualifier Noah Rubin to reach the Australian Open third round in a tough three-setter on Wednesday.
The 17-time Grand Slam champion, seeded 17, fought back from a break down in the final set to win 7-5, 6-3, 7-6 (7/3) and will next face long-time rival Tomas Berdych.
Federer, 35, had his service broken for the first time in the final set and the 200th-ranked Rubin was serving to take it into a fourth set before the Swiss legend clawed back to force a tiebreaker.
His match-big experience and composure was enough to pull him through and take the match in 2hr 4min on Rod Laver Arena.
"I have played out here many, many times, that's my advantage maybe," Federer said of his first meeting with the 20-year-old American, a Wimbledon junior champion three years ago.
"I did see a bit of Noah going into this match. He's been around for a couple of years now.
"It's great to get to see a few matches now. Yeah, plays well. Great fighter. Great legs. Aggressive on the ball.
"My serving kept me in the match today and happy I got through somehow."
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.
Federer is coming off an injury-hit 2016 following knee surgery which forced him to miss 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.
Stan Wawrinka got his Australian Open campaign back on track with an unruffled straight-sets win over American Steve Johnson to reach the third round.
The 2014 winner bounced back from his too-close-for-comfort five-set opening round triumph over Martin Klizan with a more accomplished performance against the 30th-ranked Johnson.
The Swiss fourth seed rolled through a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 win in 1hr 52min, with no breaks of serve and dominating the rallies.
Wawrinka will next play either Serbian Viktor Troicki or Italian Paolo Lorenzi.
"I played at a great level and I'm really happy with my focus to get into the third round," Wawrinka said.
"I was feeling the ball better today and I made him play a lot. I was happy with my serve in general."
It was in contrast to his tight first-round win over Klizan, when he was booed for smashing a volley straight at the static Slovak in the fifth set.
He broke Johnson's big serve with his signature one-handed backhand in the sixth game before bringing up three set points.
The Swiss claimed another service break with a forehand winner to go two sets up after a 42-minute battle.
Another delightful cross-court backhand claimed another service break in the third game of the final set and he sailed to three match points, converting the second.
Among Wawrinka’s three Grand Slam titles is his win over Rafael Nadal in Melbourne three years ago, when he became the first player to defeat the top two seeds en route to a major title since Spaniard Sergei Bruguera won 1993 Roland Garros.
Wawrinka also won 2015 French Open and last year's US Open, both times conquering Novak Djokovic.
Nishikori, Tsonga advance
In the other matches of the day, Japanese fifth seed Kei Nishikori marched into the third round alongside former finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, with both winning in straight sets.
Nishikori was extended to five sets in his first-round win over Andrey Kuznetsov, but he found the going a little easier in his 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 win over Jeremy Chardy, winning in just over two hours to reach the third round for the seventh consecutive year.
"(I) was definitely playing much better than first round today," he said Wednesday. "There were many ups and downs, still too many break points for me. Great to finish in three sets."
Nishikori has reached the quarterfinals three times at Melbourne Park, but has never advanced beyond that stage. He could play top-seeded Andy Murray in the quarterfinals this year.
However, he said he hadn't completely clicked into gear, complaining of "up and down" form after he was broken three times by the 72nd-ranked Frenchman.
"It was too much up and down, too many service breaks for me, but it's great to win in straight sets," said Nishikori, who had his serve broken three times by Chardy.
"I am hoping to get my ranking up and I played much better than I did in the first round."
Nishikori, who believes he is due a first major win this year, next plays either Lukas Llacko, with Tomas Berdych potentially awaiting in the fourth round.
France's Tsonga, who is seeded 12th and was runner-up to Novak Djokovic in 2008, beat Serbia's Dusan Lajovic 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 to go through.
With inputs from agencies
Published Date: Jan 18, 2017 13:07 PM | Updated Date: Jan 18, 2017 13:07 PM