Federer 'rusty' but victorious on his return from six-week holiday

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The Independent Online

Roger Federer launched his North American hard-court campaign with a workmanlike 7-6, 6-3 win over Argentine Juan Ignacio Chela to move confidently into the third round of the Toronto Masters yesterday.

Twice a champion in Canada, it seemed business as usual for Federer when he strolled onto a packed centre court to the cheers of the Toronto crowd. But while the surroundings were familiar, the situation was not as Federer has surrendered the No 1 world ranking he held for 285 weeks and entered a tournament as the third seed for the first time since November 2003.

Playing in his first tournament since a shock quarter-final defeat to Tomas Berdych at Wimbledon, Federer needed a few games to knock off some rust. "It's always nice to come back after six weeks and get the win," Federer said. "It's normal that you're a bit rusty after six weeks. You have to work your way into playing matches again."

Federer celebrated his 29th birthday on Sunday with cake and talk that his career was on the decline. But if there has been a drop off in his game, there were no signs during the 81 minutes he spent on court against Chela.

The 16-time grand slam winner grabbed the early break to go up 4-2. But he then began to misfire as he sent shots wide and long to let Chela back into the set before prevailing in the tiebreak.

Federer again took the initiative in the second set with an early break and this time remained in control, crusing to a comfortable win. "I did some good things and it was a a pity I had a letdown at 5-2 up in the first set, because I think I really had things going my way then," said Federer. "He played well to come back into it and after that I thought I still was able to dominate."

Robin Soderling, who could replace Andy Murray as the world No 4 if the defending champion struggles in Toronto, advanced to the third round with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 win over young Latvian Ernests Gulbis.

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