Federer overcomes first-set hiccup to advance in Halle

(Reuters) – Roger Federer was not immune to suffering some grasscourt jitters yesterday as the Swiss began his first match on the lush green surface this year with a 6-7(8) 6-4 6-2 second-round win over Portugal’s Joao Sousa at the Gerry Webber Open.

The seven-times Wimbledon champion owns more grasscourt titles (13) than any other player since tennis turned professional in 1968 but that expertise could not prevent him from dropping the first set against an opponent who has no proven track record on the surface.

The second seed, chasing a seventh title in Halle, squandered five break points in the first set against the 47-ranked Sousa.

But Federer, who was beaten in the fourth round of the French Open by Ernests Gulbis, ran out a comfortable victor after easily winning the next two sets.

Federer will face either towering Croat Ivo Karlovic or Lu Yen-hsun of Taiwan for a place in the semi-finals.

Rafa Nadal will be dusting off his claycourt shoes after winning his ninth French Open title on Sunday when he begins his grasscourt campaign against maverick German Dustin Brown.

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