By Justin Bergman ,AP
SHANGHAI — Roger Federer saved five match points and rallied from a 5-2 deficit in the third-set tiebreaker before finally beating Leonardo Mayer 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (7) in a thrilling second-round match at the Shanghai Masters on Wednesday.
Rafael Nadal, meanwhile, lost to fellow Spaniard Feliciano Lopez 6-3, 7-6 (6) only days after appendicitis left him bedridden and uncertain if he’d be able to compete.
Federer hadn’t played since helping Switzerland beat Italy to make the Davis Cup final a month ago, and the inactivity showed. He made an uncharacteristic 57 unforced errors — including some bad mishits — and only won about half of his points at the net.
The Swiss star was also a little fortunate. On Mayer’s first match point at 5-4 in the third, the Argentine aimed a backhand passing shot down the line but the ball clipped the tape and fell back on his side of the net.
Federer finally put it away on his first match point with a backhand lob that just caught the line.
“I think I got unbelievably lucky today. Let’s be quite honest. I think he deserved it,” Federer said. “Could be my greatest escape thus far.”
As for the reason for his difficulties, the 17-time Grand Slam title winner pointed to his spell away from the tour.
“Midway through the third set I was like, yeah, I have been on vacation actually, so it’s normal that I’m struggling,” he said. “I was trying to go for an all-time record of missed volleys tonight.”
Nadal was in so much pain from appendicitis earlier this week, he couldn’t sleep, eat or even get out of bed for several days.
After an aggressive course of antibiotics to control the inflammation, he felt healthy enough to play his opening match against Lopez. However, his shots lacked depth and power, and his serve didn’t have its usual punch.
Nadal said he felt a little dizzy from the antibiotics, but otherwise wasn’t in a great deal of pain.
“Even today the doctors told me that I was very, very lucky that I did not have to go for surgery straight, can (treat) with antibiotics,” he said. “Pain I think is under control. That’s important. I think I was lucky for that.”
The 14-time major winner had just returned to the tour after two months on the sidelines with a wrist injury. Now he faces likely surgery to have his appendix removed, which could keep him out of the ATP Tour Finals in London next month.