Federer battles to victory on return

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Swiss Roger Federer celebrates after his victory over German Mischa Zverev at the ATP Mercedes Cup Tennis Tournament in Stuttgart Wednesday. — AFP

STUTTGART — Roger Federer was made to battle after a losing first set as the Swiss star made his long-awaited return to tennis Wednesday with a 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 defeat of Mischa Zverev at the Stuttgart Cup.

The world No. 2 shook off the rust against his German opponent after a poor start, breaking twice in the second and third sets to earn victory in 93 minutes.

The 20-time Grand Slam winner, who exited in his opening match at the grass court season curtain-raiser a year ago to friend Tommy Haas, can displace Rafael Nadal from the world's top ranking spot if he reaches Sunday's final.

The 36-year-old finished to the cheers of a sold-out center court on a chilly day.

Federer lost the first set to Zverev, older brother of world No. 3 Alexander Zverev, but quickly recovered to post his sixth win in as many meetings in the series.

The Swiss was playing his first match in nearly three months after skipping the spring clay court season for a second year in succession in order to fully concentrate on his grass preparation.

He is aiming to claim a record ninth Wimbledon title next month at the All England Club.

Federer finished off Zverev, whom he beat a year ago in the Wimbledon third round, on his first match point, a passing winner.

The top seed improved to 18-2 on the season as he began the pursuit of his 98th career trophy.

In first round play, German Maximillian Merterer lined up as the first opponent for fourth seed Nick Kyrgios with a defeat of Croatian lucky loser Viktor Galovic 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.

Indian Prajnesh Gunneswaran, ranked a career-best 169, achieved a win in his first ATP main draw appearance, beating Canadian sixth seed Denis Shapovalov 7-6 (8/6), 2-6, 6-3 for the first upset of the week.

Frenchman Benoit Paire hammered 14 aces in his defeat of American Taylor Fritz 6-7 (4/7), 6-3, 6-2. Paire will next face Czech third seed Tomas Berdych.

Canada's seventh seed Milos Raonic, his ranking down to 35th, marked his comeback from injury after last playing in Madrid nearly six weeks ago, by seeing off Bosnian Mirza Basic 7-6 (10/8), 6-2.

Nadal withdraws from Queen's

French Open champion Rafael Nadal has pulled out of next week's Queen's Club grasscourt tournament, saying he needs more time to recover after winning his 11th Roland Garros title.

"I would like to say sorry to the tournament organizers and most of all to the fans that were hoping to see me play, but I have spoken to my doctors and I need to listen to what my body is telling me," the 32-year-old Spaniard said Wednesday.

Bartoli ends plan to return

Former Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli has abandoned her attempted return to the Tour, saying her right shoulder is not strong enough to cope with the rigors of professional tennis.

The Frenchwoman, 33, said last December that she planned to come out of retirement at this year's Miami Open before deferring her return until later this year.

"To my dismay I must unfortunately stop my comeback attempt," Bartoli said on her Twitter page.

"The necessary increase of training doses to try to find my best level caused pain again to my right shoulder, which become incompatible with a recovery at the highest level."

Bartoli, who retired six weeks after her Wimbledon triumph in 2013, has suffered ill health since and said she "feared for her life" after dramatic weight loss in 2016.

She has worked in various media roles and was a TV commentator during this month's French Open. — Agencies


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