Roger Federer rallied to beat home favourite Mischa Zverev 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 at the Stuttgart Open on Wednesday in his first match in nearly three months.
The Swiss great converted four of his 10 break points to end a two-match losing streak and start his grass-court season with a win.
Federer hadn’t played since March, when he lost to Thanasi Kokkinakis and Juan Martin del Potro in Miami and Indian Wells, respectively. He skipped the entire clay-court season for the second year in a row.
Zverev had never won a set against Federer in their five previous meetings, but he took the first before the second-ranked Swiss upped his game and broke the German twice to force the decider.
Federer lost to another German, Tommy Haas, in his Stuttgart opener last year, but will now face Guido Pella or Prajnesh Gunneswaran in the quarterfinals.
Indian qualifier Gunneswaran upset sixth-seeded Denis Shapovalov of Canada 7-6 (6), 2-6, 6-3 in their first-round match.
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There were also wins for Milos Raonic and Maximilian Marterer in the first round, while Denis Istomin defeated Florian Mayer 6-3, 6-4 in the second round.
“Three months [out] is a long time, it’s longer than the year-end break,” said Federer.
“I’m very happy returning on good terms on to the tour. It’s difficult, missed some chances maybe in the first set, he connected well at the right times. Then I found my rhythm.”
He added: “I’m super happy to be back on tour – it’s been a great start.”
During his two and a half months out, Federer has dropped to second in the world rankings, behind Spain’s Rafael Nadal.
But the 36-year-old will regain top spot if he reaches the final in Germany and faces either Guido Pella or Prajnesh Gunneswaran in the last eight.
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