DEFENDING champion Roger Federer admitted he “got lucky” after surviving what would have surely been one of the biggest shocks in Wimbledon history on a historic opening day at SW19, which finished at almost 11pm.
The six-time winner was two sets to love down on little-known Columbian Alejandro Falla, who then served for the match in the fourth set, as the disbelieving Centre Court crowd held its breath.
But the 16-time Grand Slam winner dug deep to take the crucial fourth set on a tie-break before wrapping up a 5-7, 4-6, 6-4,7-6 (7-1), 6-0 victory in three hours 18 minutes.
“I definitely got very lucky out there,” a relieved Federer said after booking 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. 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.”
The late game saw third seed Novak Djokovic also suffer a huge scare as he was taken to five sets by Frenchman Olivier Rochus in a match which ended at 10.58pm under the Centre Court lights and closed roof.
Djokovic recovered from 1-0 and 2-1 down to eventually come through 4-6, 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 in a thriller.
Seventh seed Nikolay Davydenko was another who struggled, taken all the way by South African Kevin Anderson before winning 3-6, 6-7 (3/7), 7-6 (7/3), 7-5, 9-7 in a match which lasted more than four hours.
There were no such problems, however, for last year’s finalist Andy Roddick, who breezed past Rajeev Ram 6-3, 6-2, 6-2, although 11th seed Marin Cilic crashed out 6-2, 6-4, 7-6 (7-1) to German Florian Mayer.