Wimbledon 2010: Roger Federer survives massive scare
Wimbledon Championships Venue: All England Club, London Date: 21 June - 4 July Coverage: Live on BBC One and Two, HD, Red Button, BBC Sport website (UK only), Radio 5 live, 5 live sports extra; live text commentary online and on mobile phones.
Full details of BBC coverage
Highlights - Federer escapes first-round shock
By Caroline Cheese
BBC Sport at Wimbledon
Roger Federer avoided one of the biggest upsets in tennis history as he came from two sets down to beat Alejandro Falla at Wimbledon.
The defending champion came through 5-7 4-6 6-4 7-6 (7-1) 6-0 in an astonishing opening match on Centre Court.
Falla, the world number 60, served for the match at 5-4 in the fourth set, but top seed Federer dug deep.
And the six-time champion hit top form in the deciding fifth set as Falla's fire finally died out.
"I definitely got very lucky out there," a relieved Federer told BBC Sport after winning in three hours and 18 minutes to book a second-round meeting with Serbia's Ilija Bozoljac.
"I have lost many matches this year which I should have won, this is one I should have lost but I came through. But that is sometimes how grass court tennis works.
Federer admits to 'lucky' win
"It came as a bit of a shock and it's not something I was that prepared for, but you have to draw from experience and physical strength. I live to fight another day."
Having broken Pete Sampras's Grand Slam record at the All England Club last year, Federer is now looking to equal the American's haul of seven Wimbledon titles, but for long periods against left-hander Falla, it looked like his challenge might crumble on day one.
"For some reason, I wasn't able to read his serve. That really rattled me. I had to look for that for a long time. Thank God I found it eventually," said Federer.
"He played well. He's unconventional. He doesn't look like much, but he definitely plays very solid and plays very uncomfortable. I think he played terrific. He made it hard for me.
"For me, it's not normal to be down two sets to love, especially at Wimbledon, and early on in Grand Slams. My whole game was sort of in disarray."
There was no sign of the drama to come when a relaxed-looking Federer, his parents Robbie and Lynette watching from the Royal Box, strolled out onto a sunny Centre Court, wearing a gold-trimmed zip-up cardigan.
A year earlier on the same court, the 28-year-old had prevailed 16-14 in the final set of a gruelling final against Andy Roddick, but Falla was not expected to present anywhere near as big a challenge.
The world number 60 had lost all four of his previous matches against Federer, including a 6-1 6-2 humbling on the grass of Halle two weeks ago.
However, Federer has not been his dominant self in recent months.
Since winning his 16th Grand Slam at the Australian Open in January, the Swiss has failed to win a title and saw his record run of 23 straight Grand Slam semi-finals end at the French Open.
Most recently, he lost to Lleyton Hewitt in the Halle final, his first defeat by the Australian in 16 matches.
Drawing Falla in the first round at his favourite tournament seemed like the perfect cure for his recent malaise: the Colombian had won only three matches in five previous visits to Wimbledon.
But Falla shone on tennis's biggest stage, mixing slice with power off the backhand and hitting a string of crunching forehand winners.
Federer's performance, by contrast was curiously flat, and yet even when Falla broke for a 6-5 lead in the first set, there was a sense that the six-time champion would find a way to respond to the challenge.
The response did not come. Federer hooked a forehand wide to lose a set in the first round at Wimbledon for the first time in eight years.
It was a similar tale in the second set: Federer vainly seeking inspiration against an opponent who continued to play solid, and occasionally brilliant, grass-court tennis.
Serving for a two-set lead at 5-4, Falla faltered for the first time, but Federer was unable to take advantage, two break points slipping by before the Colombian forced his opponent off court and put away an easy volley on his fourth set point.
The tale took another twist when Falla called the trainer to attend to an apparent groin injury.
The Colombian's movement appeared restricted, but Federer continued to make uncharacteristic errors.
Instead, he relied on his fighting qualities, saving four break points in the ninth game before an all-too-rare forehand winner earned him the third set at the second opportunity.
With Falla still treading gingerly between points, the tide appeared to have turned, but the Colombian stunned the Centre Court crowd yet again by breaking in the first game of the fourth.
He deserved his chance to serve for the win at 5-4, but Federer, playing in his 57th Wimbledon match to Falla's ninth, kept his cool.
A drop shot, a tactic which would prove more and more successful as the match wore on, helped him earn two break points and a huge forehand finished the job.
Still, the danger lurked as Federer saved a break point in the very next game, but come the tie-break, Falla's challenge completely evaporated.
Federer cantered through the fifth set in 27 minutes, but both players earned deserved standing ovations from a Centre Court crowd as shocked as they were delighted by such a dramatic opening match of Wimbledon 2010.
Falla admitted the nerves had got to him as he prepared to serve for the match. "I was thinking that I have a big opportunity to beat Federer here," he said.
"I just doubted a little bit at that moment for the first two points, and then he played good points.
"But I am happy because I played a great match. Today is a special day for me in tennis, even if I lost that match. I can say I was serving for the match against Federer. Many players would like to be in that situation."
This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.