London: Roger Federer scraped through his first-round match against Alejandro Falla but Tomas Berdych suffered a shock exit on the Wimbledon grass.
Two years ago, the Colombian almost caused one of the biggest upsets in tennis history when he led Federer by two sets to love in the first round at SW19 and served for the match, only for the 17-time grand slam champion to turn it around.
Their rematch looked routine for Federer when he led 6-3 5-3 and held three match points on Falla`s serve, but remarkably he missed them all and was then broken twice in a row to lose the second set.
Falla pegged back Federer again when he went up an early break in the decider but the world number one dug deep and pulled through, taking his fifth match point to win 6-3 5-7 6-3.
Federer is favourite to win the Olympic gold, which would be his first in the individual event, following his Wimbledon victory over Andy Murray three weeks ago that took him back to the top of the rankings.
The 30-year-old said of this tussle: "It was up and down, a rollercoaster match like it was a few years ago.
"But things were looking great today [Saturday]. I had all the match points I wanted, I served for the match. He got tough and I got nervous. It was a tough set to lose for me.
"That`s the beauty of this game. Sometimes you`re one point away, the next thing you`re 25 points away. That made things difficult in my mind.
"But I never stopped believing, kept on pushing. He got a break back in the third set, that obviously set my nerves going because the margins are very small at that point. I`m happy I found a way to tough it out."
Federer next faces another man who has caused him big problems at Wimbledon, and this time only a few weeks ago.
France`s Julien Benneteau led the eventual champion by two sets to love in the third round but, like Falla, could not make it stick.
Federer said: "He`s been a tough customer for me. We had a good match a few weeks ago when I lost the first two sets. I can`t let that happen this time around or I`m packing my suitcases."
Meanwhile Berdych`s miserable summer at Wimbledon continued as he lost to Belgium`s Steve Darcis.
Czech Berdych had also lost in the first round of Wimbledon to Ernests Gulbis, and he was outplayed again, with Darcis winning 6-4 6-4.
It was a momentous victory for the world number 75 on his Centre Court debut, and he said: "It was amazing.
"When you are young, you watch the Wimbledon final, you watch all the brilliant matches here, and you say, `Maybe it will be my turn one day`.
"It was amazing to step on the court, to see all the crowd. Of course, it was different. It was the Olympics. You play tennis to play those matches, to play on those courts. Today was one of the best moments in my life."
There was a little-versus-large contest on Court Two when 5ft 6in Belgian Olivier Rochus took on 6ft 9in John Isner of the USA, and it was the big man who prevailed 7-6 (7/1) 6-4.
All the talk before the tournament had been about how the groundstaff were going to get the courts ready in less than three weeks between Wimbledon and the Olympics, and Isner and Rochus both felt conditions were not ideal.
Tenth seed Isner said: "I thought the court was too slick. That is the general consensus, too. For a big guy like me it makes it tough."
Seventh seed Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia and eighth seed Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina both made it through their opening matches, but Spain`s Fernando Verdasco, the 14th seed, was beaten 6-4 7-6 (11/9) by Uzbekistan`s Denis Istomin.
In the women`s competition Wimbledon champion Serena Williams was cheered on by Michelle Obama as she began her Olympic campaign in style on Centre Court.
The fourth seed had the United States` first lady in her supporters` box as she defeated Serbian former world number one Jelena Jankovic 6-3 6-1 to make it 12 straight victories.
Williams next meets Poland`s Urszula Radwanska, the younger sister of Agnieszka, who the American beat to win her fifth Wimbledon title three weeks ago.
The 30-year-old said: "They asked me did I mind if she sat in the family box. I was like, `Of course not. Please, it would be my honour.` I love Michelle, so it was good.
"I gave her a thumbs up just to acknowledge that I knew she was here. Obviously it was impossible not to see her but it was cool."
Two of last year`s grand slam champions are already out of the tournament, with fifth seed Sam Stosur and 11th seed Li Na both losing on Saturday.
Australian Stosur went down in an epic against Carla Suarez Navarro, the Spaniard winning 3-6 7-5 10-8, while China`s Li was beaten 6-2 3-6 6-3 by Slovakia`s Daniela Hantuchova.
In the next round Suarez Navarro will play Kim Clijsters, who is playing in her first and last Olympics before she retires for the second time after the US Open.
The Belgian has struggled with injuries this season and was hampered by an abdominal strain at Wimbledon three weeks ago, where she crashed out in the fourth round to Angelique Kerber.
But she looked in very good form on Saturday against Italy`s Roberta Vinci, racing through the first set and then edging a closer second to win 6-1 6-4.
Last year`s Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, seeded sixth here, was given a fright by Ukraine`s Kateryna Bondarenko before coming through 6-4 5-7 6-4.
There were also victories for Caroline Wozniacki, Ana Ivanovic and Vera Zvonareva, the bronze medallist in Beijing, but 12th seed Dominika Cibulkova was beaten by Bulgaria`s grass-court specialist Tsvetana Pironkova.
BDST: 1939 HRS, July 29, 2012
Chanchal Ghosh, Newsroom Editor
All rights reserved. Sale, redistribution or reproduction of information/photos/illustrations/video/audio contents on this website in any form without prior permission from banglanews24.com are strictly prohibited and liable to legal action.