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Federer wins first match since winning Australian Open

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Back on court, Roger Federer won his first match since claiming his 18th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open.

The third-seeded Federer beat Benoit Paire 6-1, 6-3 Monday to move into the second round of the Dubai Tennis Championships. Federer, a seven-time Dubai champion who holds a 48-5 record in 13 appearances, missed last year’s tournament with a knee injury.

“It’s incredible to be back after the knee,” Federer said. “I’m standing and I’m here.”

Federer was cheered as he walked on court. He maintains a home in Dubai and is viewed as a part-time local in the city.

“It’s nice as you’re warming up you hear the crowd as they’re getting pumped up,” Federer said. “You hear music and hear the roars.

“And when you walk out, I don’t know, it’s a nice feeling to have,” he added. “It’s mutual, because I missed playing here last year.”

Federer saved all three break points he faced in the match, with all three coming in the fifth service game of the first set.

“There were some break points to be saved,” Federer said. “I think I returned very well for a first round. I was able to get my second serves in deep, was able to go into the offensive quickly.”

Also, Philipp Kohlschreiber beat eighth-seeded Gilles Muller 6-4, 7-6 (1) and sixth-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut defeated Karen Khachanov 6-1, 7-6 (4).

The 32nd-ranked Kohlschreiber is now two matches away from his 400th career victory.

Wozniacki still in frame for return to No. 1

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Caroline Wozniacki had just been beaten by Kim Clijsters in the 2012 Australian Open quarterfinals, causing her to lose her No. 1 ranking on the WTA Tour, and she had some fighting words.

“I will get it back eventually, so I’m not worried,” she said. “The media talks to me like I’m finished … the fact is I still have quite a few good years in front of me.”

Fast forward to this year’s Australian Open, where Wozniacki’s win in the third round on Friday leaves her with a chance to regain the No. 1 ranking – six years later.

If so, it would be the longest gap between stints at the top since the WTA’s computer rankings were introduced in 1975. She might take some solace from the fact that the current longest streak between players returning to No. 1 is held by Serena Williams at 5 years, 29 days.

The 27-year-old Wozniacki also faced criticism during her first stay at No. 1 – which included year-end top rankings in 2010 and 2011 – that she’d never won a major, unlike Williams’ current 23. And that hasn’t changed either.

Maybe this year.

On Friday, two days after she came back from a 5-1 deficit and saved two match points in the third set to beat Jana Fett in the second round, she had a 6-4, 6-3 win over Kiki Bertens that wasn’t without late drama, both with closing out the match, and with her criticism of the chair umpire.

Wozniacki had to save four break points while serving for the match but clinched it on her fourth match point.

After coming so close to being knocked out of the tournament, she sounded like a gambler with cash in her pocket.

“Right now, playing with house money,” Wozniacki said in an on-court television interview. “Nothing to lose. I got a second chance. I’m just going to try and take it and see how far I can go.”

Wozniacki wasn’t happy with chair umpire Renaud Lichtenstein. She had complained about a few line calls, and that the court was slippery in several areas.

“I’ve never had this guy before … but I think he did a poor job today,” Wozniacki said. “If the court is wet, I think it’s normal to ask for a towel. I don’t think someone needs to be rude, and I told him so. I think there were some questionable calls, as well.”

Watching from Wozniacki’s support section was former NBA player David Lee. In November, the former New York Knicks forward proposed to her during a holiday on the French Polynesian island of Bora Bora.

“All I’ll say is it was a surprise, it was amazing,” Wozniacki said earlier this week of Lee’s proposal. “Had the best off-season. We had a great time traveling a little bit, exploring some new places. I was really recharged when I finally got back on the court again.”

Perhaps enough to get her back to No. 1.

Roger Federer through to Australian 3rd round

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Defending champion Roger Federer is through to the Australian Open’s third round after beating Jan-Lennard Struff 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (4) in a night match at Rod Laver Arena.

Federer maintained his record of always reaching the third round at Melbourne Park, and this is his 19th appearance. Five of his 19 Grand Slam singles titles have been in Australia.

Despite his straight-sets win, Federer was only able to convert three of his 11 break-point chances, and only one of six in the third set.

The 36-year-old Federer will next play French veteran Richard Gasquet. Federer has beaten Gasquet 16 of the 18 times they’ve played.