Road gets tougher for Roger Federer after disposing of two qualifiers in Melbourne
Roger Federer has made it to the third round in Melbourne for the 18th time. AP

MELBOURNE, Australia — Roger Federer relied on his Grand Slam experience during the most important points to beat Noah Rubin, 7-5, 6-3, 7-6 (3), on Wednesday, maintaining his record of never failing to reach the third round at the 18 Australian Opens he's contested.

After back-to-back wins over qualifiers, the degree of difficulty in his comeback from a six-month injury layoff will increase exponentially. Next up he faces former Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych, who had a 6-3, 7-6 (6), 6-2 win over Ryan Harrison.

Also looming, potentially, is No. 5 Kei Nishikori, the 2014 US Open finalist, who set up a third-round match against Lukas Lacko with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 win over Jeremy Chardy.

Federer didn't play after his semifinal exit at Wimbledon last year, resting his injured left knee. He returned at the Hopman Cup exhibition in Perth this month, and opened at Melbourne Park with a straight-sets win over another 35-year-old veteran, Jurgen Melzer.

Against Rubin, a 20-year-old qualifier and 2014 Wimbledon junior champion, the 17-time Grand Slam winner played the big points like the old pro that he is.

He broke Rubin's serve in the 12th game of the first set, dominated the second. Rubin had his chances in the third set, breaking Federer in the second game and having two set points on the Swiss star's serve when he led 5-2.

But Federer upped the tempo, winning four of the last five games to force a tiebreaker, which he dominated. Rubin moved well from the baseline, and hit 11 forehand winners, but was only able to convert one of his six break-point chances.

"I definitely got lucky winning that third set. He had a couple of set points on my serve," Federer said. There were, "a lot of difficult points, which is what I need."

US Open champion Stan Wawrinka advanced, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4, over Steve Johnson, and No. 12 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga beat Dusan Lajovic, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3.


No. 19 John Isner, the highest-seeded US player in the men's draw, won the first two sets before losing to Mischa Zverev, 6-7 (4), 6-7 (4), 6-4, 7-6 (7), 9-7, following Johnson, Rubin and Harrison out in the second round. In a bright spot for the Americans, No. 31 Sam Querrey advanced with a 7-6 (5), 6-0, 6-1 win over Australian wild-card entry Alex De Minaur.


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