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Federer survives scare from bogeyman Simon

January 19, 2011 19:28 IST

Roger Federer survived a huge fright to scrape past bogeyman Gilles Simon 6-2, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3 and reach the third round of the Australian Open on Wednesday.

Defending champion Federer had lost both his previous two meetings against Simon, but the 16-times Grand Slam winner just about had the measure of the Frenchman on a chilly night in Melbourne.

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Federer caught fire early, the Swiss master storming into a two-set lead after 68 minutes but the magic suddenly deserted him, allowing Simon to bravely claw his way level.

Federer celebrates after beating SimonFederer, tension etched all over his face, demonstrated nerves of steel, however, threading a forehand down the line to break for 4-2 in the fifth set before blasting an ace into the corner on his fifth match point three games later.

Earlier, Novak Djokovic was dragged into a dour mid-match scrap by Ivan Dodig, but pounded the dogged Croat in the last two sets to win 7-5 6-7, 6-0, 6-2 and reach the third round.

After conceding the first set, Dodig battled like a streetfighter in the second, winning back a break and pushing Djokovic into a tense tiebreak where he unleashed a withering roar after clinching it on the third set point.

The jubilation was to prove short-lived, however, as Djokovic broke serve in the next game, then mowed through the next seven.

Dodig battled hard to prise a breakpoint at 4-1 but 2008 champion Djokovic slammed the door shut with a searing forehand winner down the line and later sealed the second of two match points with a thumping serve.

Venus Williams hobbled while Caroline Wozniacki and Justine Henin cantered on Wednesday but all three reached the third round.

Williams, returning to action here for the first time since last year's US Open, was severely hampered by what appeared to be a groin problem but still managed to scramble a 6-7, 6-0, 6-4 victory over world number 97 Sandra Zahlavova.

The seven-times Grand Slam winner took a medical timeout after losing the first set tiebreak and then gritted her teeth and summoned up her wealth of experience to grind out a victory in a shade over three hours.

"It was really tough," Williams, flying the family flag alone this year in the absence of injured 2010 champion Serena. "But I'm a long way from home. It's such a long way home and I didn't want to go back yet.

"You've got to be able play in all circumstances -- good, bad strange, weird, bizarre. I haven't retired from a match in a long time. I have to go to the bitter end."

Top women's seed Wozniacki earlier looked in fine fettle as she took just 58 minutes to overpower American Vania King 6-1, 6-0, continuing an impressive start to her attempt to vindicate her number one ranking with a first grand slam title.

Wozniacki's win set up a third round opportunity to avenge her loss last week in Sydney to Slovakia's Dominika Cibulova, who advanced with a 6-1, 4-6, 6-2 win over Italian Alberta Brianti.

"I definitely felt like I was playing good tennis today," 20-year-old Wozniacki said, adding: "I believe that I'm a really good player, I can beat anyone on a good day."

Henin was shaking hands with the umpire on Rod Laver Arena moments after Wozniacki clinched her win, having put Briton Elena Baltacha to the sword 6-1, 6-3.

Seeded a lowly 11th, Henin was still feeling the elbow injury that kept her out of the game for six months last year and said the unseasonably low temperatures had not helped.

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