Roger Federer was given a free ride into the third round of the Australian Open yesterday after German Andreas Beck withdrew with injury.
The Swiss, seeded third, was due to play left-hander Beck on Hisense Arena, but the 25-year-old was forced to pull out with a lower back problem.
Federer said his opponent had told him of the problem in the locker room.
“He said, ‘I’m not so good actually. I have a bad back’,” Federer told reporters. “It came as a surprise. He said he had a lot painkillers and pain during the last match. I think it happened four, five days ago.
“He doesn’t want to risk it early in the season, best five sets against me.
“Nothing he could have done, even though he would love to play against me. I guess it’s the only smart decision for him to take.”
Federer, targeting a fifth Australian Open title at Melbourne Park, will meet either Croatia’s Ivo Karlovic or Argentine Carlos Berlocq in the third round.
The withdrawal spared Federer a first match away from Rod Laver Arena since he met Jeff Morrison in the second round in 2004.
“I was excited, I wasn’t disappointed to be playing on Hisense to be honest,” said Federer, whose subsequent 52 matches taking place on the main show court.
“At Wimbledon and at the French we always go (to) the second court.
“It’s just here and at the US Open with the night sessions they have . . . more space for men’s matches on the centre court.
“But when the draws are such that me and Rafa are in the same section, and you have (Bernard) Tomic, I guess, I expect it to happen.
“When I saw that Rafa played on Hisense the first day, I expected my second round match was going to be there too.
“I would have loved to play (and I) feel sorry for the fans who were excited to see me on Hisense today. I was ready to go.”
Rafa Nadal eased into the third round, showing no outward signs of physical discomfort as he beat Germany’s Tommy Haas 6-4, 6-3, 6-4.
The second seeded Spaniard, whose last two Melbourne campaigns have been scuppered by injury and who wore heavy taping on his right knee, raced through the first two sets with little fuss before faltering in the third.
The 33-year-old Haas, twice a semi-finalist at the Australian Open, broke Nadal on his first service game, but was unable to resist the power of the 2009 champion, who wrapped up the match when the German put a forehand wide.
The 25-year-old Nadal faces Slovakian qualifier Lukas Lacko or American Donald Young in the third round.
American No 1 Mardy Fish crashed out of the Australian Open, beaten 7-6, 6-3,
7-6 by Alejandro Falla in the second round.
Afterwards, eighth seed Fish questioned whether the Colombian had “abused” the rules by calling out the trainer as a tactical ploy during a tense third set.
Fish had to battle back just to force a tiebreak in the third set on court three, but lost it 8-6 to fall at the second hurdle for the second year in a row at Melbourne Park.
Left-hander Falla summoned up a brilliant lob after a 30-stroke rally to take a 5-4 lead in the tiebreak and survived some late nerves to claim victory when Fish blasted a forehand wide.
Falla called the trainer out twice at changeovers in the third set as he appeared to be struggling with cramp, prompting Fish to ask the umpire and tournament referee for clarification of the rules.