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Federer battles into Australian Open third round, Anderson falls

The ageless 20-time Grand Slam champion, who is gunning for a record seventh Melbourne Park title and third in a row, had breezed past Denis Istomin in the first round, but was given a much tougher examination by the world number 189.

Roger Federer celebrates a win at the 2019 Australian Open. Picture: @AustralianOpen/Twitter

MELBOURNE - Defending champion Roger Federer reached the Australian Open third round for a 20th straight year Wednesday but was made to battle hard by Britain's Dan Evans before winning 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/3), 6-3.

The ageless 20-time Grand Slam champion, who is gunning for a record seventh Melbourne Park title and third in a row, had breezed past Denis Istomin in the first round, but was given a much tougher examination by the world number 189.

"I think if I could have pulled away early in the match it might have been different," said the 37-year-old Swiss master who needed 2hr 35min to get past his 28-year-old opponent.

Evans, whose ranking plummeted from a career-high 41 after he was slapped with a year-long ban for testing positive to cocaine in April 2017, played almost flawless tennis to stave off a set point on his way to forcing a first set tie-break.

He even had the temerity to lead 5-3 in the breaker before Federer stepped up a gear and reeled off the next four points with a cry of "Come on!" as he secured a hard-fought opening set after exactly one hour.

It was harsh on Evans who had committed only two unforced errors and constantly put the third seed under pressure with his scampering, attacking game and flurry of winners off both wings.

The plucky Evans, who had covered acres of ground and found the lines brilliantly, needed treatment for blisters on both feet before the second set started and immediately was broken.

But he refused to lie down and broke back as Federer served for the set to force another tie-break.

"I thought I might have pulled away midway through the second set," added Federer. "But I couldn't, to his credit. He played well."

The Swiss star hasn't often needed luck during his unparallelled career but he took advantage of some in the third set to finally ease the pressure.

Holding break point at 2-1, he barely scooped up a half-volley which grabbed the net cord and toppled over forcing Evans to go long.

A service game to love followed to put Federer 4-1 up and the brave resistance of Evans was finally broken.

The veteran will next play either France's Gael Monfils, seeded 30, or American Taylor Fritz in the last 32.

Fifth seed Kevin Anderson was sent packing from the Australian Open in round two with American Frances Tiafoe prevailing 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, 7-5.

The South African, a Wimbledon finalist last year, struggled with an elbow injury early in the clash and couldn't cope with Tiafoe's power and finesse.

World number 39 Tiafoe, who is into the third round at Melbourne Park for the first time, equalling his best ever Grand Slam result, next plays veteran Italian Andreas Seppi.

"It means the world to me," said the American, who will celebrate his 21st birthday on Sunday and is fresh from playing the mixed teams Hopman Cup in Perth with Serena Williams.

"I lost to him three times last year and when I was down a set and a break it looked like it would happen again. I dug deep and went to a different place.

"It's all about competing, how bad you want it and I want it real bad. I'd love to get to the second week of a Slam for the first time," he added.

Anderson warmed up for the Australian Open by winning his sixth ATP title at Pune earlier this month, defeating Croat veteran Ivo Karlovic in the final.

He had been looking for a deep run at Melbourne Park this year after getting past the opening round for the first time since 2015.