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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Robin Soderling avoided becoming the first big-name casualty of the U.S. Open as the fifth seed secured a 7-5 6-3 6-7 5-7 6-4 first-round victory over Andreas Haider-Maurer on Monday.
Soderling, a quarter-finalist at Flushing Meadows last year, looked a shadow of the player that knocked out Roger Federer en route to June's French Open final.
During the match, he hit 74 unforced errors and struggled with his serve, managing eight aces to the Austrian qualifier's tally of 34. But Soderling insisted he was confident of strong run in New York.
"I feel pretty good physically and I had almost four hours of practice so it was not so bad," he said. "But I'm really happy with the way I've been playing in the big tournaments for the last year and a half, two years. I think I have shown that I can go very deep in every grand slam."
Soderling, cheered on by a vocal group of supporters wearing Swedish soccer shirts, had his opening service game of the match broken by grand-slam debutant Haider-Maurer.
He broke back to take the first set and looked set to win in straight sets but failed to convert a series of match points in the 10th game of the third set.
"I was very close to winning in three sets with three or four match points which is what I wanted to do," said the 26-year-old. "And of course it's better to win in three sets than in five."
Haider-Maurer, ranked 214th in the world and on his first visit to American soil, was unfazed in what was his first match against a top-10 player as he wrapped up the third-set tiebreak 7-2.
The Austrian's powerful serve and his heavy hitting unsettled Soderling in the fourth set, which looked to be heading to another tiebreak.
But serving 5-6 down and facing a break point, Soderling hit an easy smash into the net to take the match to a decider.
Soderling's superior experience and fitness showed almost immediately as he broke his opponent's serve at the first attempt before comfortably rounding off the match.
Editing by Frank Pingue