Roger Federer marked his return to tennis with a hard-fought three-set victory over Mischa Zverev in the first round of the Stuttgart Open.
As he has done for the last few years, Federer opted to skip the entire clay-court season, but he returned to action on Wednesday after the three-month lay-off, taking to the grass courts of Tennis Club Weissenhof for a 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory over local favourite Zverev.
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Perhaps unsurprisingly, Federer looked a little rusty at first after such a long period of inactivity.
While the Swiss ace applied most of the early pressure, earning a couple of break points in both the first and fourth games, he was unable to convert any of them, and Zverev was quick to make him pay.
When the German earned his first break point of the match in the eighth game, he immediately snatched it for a 5-3 lead before serving out the set in the next game.
Zverev proved a tough customer in the second set as well, immediately regaining a lost break after Federer was finally able to convert his first break point in the sixth game.
The defending Wimbledon champion was starting to look more at ease, however, and when another break point opportunity arose with Zverev serving to stay in the set, Federer pounced to win the set and level the scores.
The third set saw Federer take total control, converting two break points to race through the set in just 28 minutes and book his place in the second round.
“Three months is a long time, it’s longer than the year-end break. So I’m very happy returning on good terms onto the Tour,” Federer said. “It was difficult, missed some chances maybe in the first set… He connected well at the right times.
“And then I found a way, I found my rhythm… I’m very happy with how I played. I’m super happy to be back on Tour. It’s been a great start.”
Also back in action in Stuttgart on Wednesday was Milos Raonic, a former top-10 player from Canada who has been struggling with injury problems for most of the year.
Raonic eased back into the swing of things with a 7-6 (10-8), 6-2 victory over Mirza Basic.