The fourth-seeded Federer watched his opponent save one match point with a stunning passing shot on the run in a taut third-set tie break before Frenchman Chardy saw the match out by winning the next two points.
“That passing shot is a tough one for me to take because he’s not going to make that very often,” said Federer. “But it happens and credit to him to fight his way back into the match and take it.”
In his first match back after the birth of his second set of twins, 17-times Grand Slam champion Federer seemed to drop down several gears having coasted through the opening set.
Federer's new boys, Leo and Lenny, were born last week, prompting his withdrawal from the Madrid Open.
Federer and wife Mirka have twin girls, Myla Rose and Charlene Riva, who are both four.
“Everything’s under control,” he said. “I still feel good. My body’s good, my mind’s good. It’s just unfortunate for one passing shot today I don’t get another opportunity to play this week.”
Chardy was not exactly standing on ceremony as Federer suddenly began to struggle with some windy conditions at the Foro Italico court.
He was duly punished, and will now have to make alternative preparations before the second Grand Slam of the season begins on clay in 11 days at the French Open. He has played only six matches on clay heading into the tournament he won in 2009.
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