MELBOURNE Roger Federer survived a scare against big-serving Igor Andreev in the first round of the Australian Open Tuesday, coming back from a set down to beat the Russian 4-6 6-2 7-6 6-0.
The Swiss world number one, bidding for his fourth title at Melbourne Park, saved three set points to close out the third set and break Andreev's spirit, before breezing through the fourth in 28 minutes to seal the win at Rod Laver Arena.
"I just hoped that I was going to hang in there ... He was a wonderful player and it was tough," Federer said in a court-side interview.
"It was a fortunate third set for me today, but all in all I'm very happy with my performance."
Andreev, who pushed Federer to five sets during a round of 16 encounter at the 2008 U.S. Open, came out swinging against the Swiss maestro and was rewarded with a break at 4-4 after clubbing two big service returns.
Serving for the set at 5-4, Andreev blew one of two set points by hitting long, but sealed it after Federer hit a net cord that lobbed the ball past the baseline.
Federer knuckled down to win the second, but at 5-5 in the third was out-rallied by the Russian, who slapped a forehand volley to break the Swiss and take a 6-5 lead.
Andreev raised three set points serving for the set, but succumbed to the pressure on each of them, cradling his head in his hands after sending three regulation forehands into the net.
The spell broken, Federer returned to the business of being the world's number one tennis player in the last set as a shell-shocked Andreev pondered his missed chances.
Federer, who has never been eliminated in the first round in 11 appearances at Melbourne Park, next plays the winner of the match between Chile's Juan Ignacio Chela and Romania's Victor Hanescu.
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)