Published July 28, 2012
| Sports Network
London, England – Wimbledon champion Roger Federer returned to his beloved Centre Court at the All England Club and nearly left a loser as the Olympic tournament opened Saturday.
Federer claimed his seventh Wimbledon title just three weeks ago by beating Scotland's Andy Murray, but on Saturday was forced to go the distance in an opening-round Olympic win over Colombia's Alejandro Falla.
The top-seeded Swiss superstar was on the verge of a straight-set win, but Falla won the final three games of the second set to force a third -- the Olympics are a best-of-three until the final. Federer, though, managed to prevail and emerged with a 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 triumph.
It wasn't the first time Federer has struggled against Falla. Two years ago in the first round at Wimbledon, Falla took the 17-time Grand Slam champ to five sets before finally falling.
"I've struggled against Falla in the past at times," said Federer, who wasted three match points in the second set. "All of a sudden I missed the match points, things got difficult and he played a great match to come back. I'm relieved of course. Falla is a great player, counter-punches well, plays really well and made things really difficult for me."
Next up for Federer will be Frenchman Julien Benneteau, who toppled Russian Mikhail Youzhny, 7-5, 6-3. Benneteau nearly upended Federer at Wimbledon in the third round a few weeks ago, losing in five sets.
American John Isner, who played the longest-ever Grand Slam match two years ago at Wimbledon, also advanced with a 7-6 (7-1), 6-4 triumph over Belgium's Olivier Rochus. The 10th-seeded Isner will next face Tunisia's Malek Jaziri, who moved on with a three-set win over Taiwan's Yen-Hsun Lu.
There were a couple of upsets on Saturday as sixth-seeded Czech Tomas Berdych and 14th-seeded Fernando Verdasco of Spain were eliminated. Belgium's Steve Darcis pulled off a 6-4, 6-4 win over Berdych, the 2010 Wimbledon runner-up, while Uzbekistan's Denis Istomin knocked out Verdasco in a 6-4, 7-6 (11-9) decision.
Seventh-seeded Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia posted a 6-3, 6-4 win over Argentine veteran David Nalbandian, the 2002 Wimbledon finalist. Tipsarevic will next face Germany's Philipp Petzschner, who cruised past Slovakia's Lukas Lacko, 7-6 (7-5), 6-1.
Other seeded winners Saturday included Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina, Spain's Nicolas Almagro and Frenchman Gilles Simon.
The eighth-seeded del Potro eased past Croatia's Ivan Dodig, 6-4, 6-1, and will next take on Italy's Andreas Seppi, a 6-4, 6-4 winner over American Donald Young.
Almagro, seeded 11th, topped Serbia's Viktor Troicki in straight sets to earn a second-round matchup with Russian Alex Bogomolov Jr., who beat Argentina's Carlos Berlocq.
Simon, the 12th seed, dominated in a 6-4, 6-2 win over Kazakhstan's Mikhail Kukushkin and will next take on Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov, who ousted Poland's Lukasz Kubot.
Gilles Muller of Luxembourg thumped Romania's Adrian Ungur, 6-3, 6-3, and will next play Istomin. Colombia's Santiago Giraldo dumped American Ryan Harrison in two sets and will meet Darcis in round two.
Doubles action on Saturday included a win for the top-seeded American duo of Mike and Bob Bryan. They needed three sets to get past Brazilians Thomaz Bellucci and Andre Sa. However, Isner and Andy Roddick were straight-set losers to another Brazilian duo -- Bruno Soares and Marcelo Melo.
The first round continues Sunday with singles matches for Novak Djokvoic, Andy Murray, David Ferrer, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Roddick.
Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber withdrew on Saturday because of a hamstring injury he sustained during the final in Austria. He will be replaced by someone in the doubles draw.