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Home > Sports > Tennis > Australian Open 2008 > Reuters > Report

Federer makes ominous start to defence

January 15, 2008 18:47 IST

Roger Federer [Images] made a smooth start to his bid for a 13th Grand Slam title with a 6-0, 6-3, 6-0 win over Diego Hartfield in the Australian Open first round on Tuesday.

The Swiss world number one and defending champion showed few signs of rust in brushing aside the Argentine, breezing through the first set without losing a game and clinching victory in 74 minutes.

"I'm happy with my form tonight," Federer told reporters. "The beginning was tough, I knew he had a good serve so it was a bit of a surprise to have such an extreme result.

"I didn't have any lapses mentally and played pretty tough. I served especially well and that is always important for me."

Federer, seeking his fourth Australian Open title and third in a row, was playing his first match of the year and fell break point down in his opening service game.

He quickly took control, however, peppering Hartfield with a succession of rasping groundstrokes and pinpoint serves.

Hartfield, the world number 107, made the champion work a little in the second set but was simply outclassed by the top seed, who conjured up 38 winners on the way to booking a second-round match against experienced Frenchman Fabrice Santoro.

"Santoro is a tricky player to play against, he has incredible experience and is a great tactician," Federer said. "But I think I know how to play against him."

Favourites keep cool in Australian sun

The world's leading tennis players were forced to keep cool heads as Australia's skin-reddening sun burnt down on Melbourne Park on Day 2.

A gentle breeze kept temperatures manageable throughout the day but men's third seed Novak Djokovic and Australia's Lleyton Hewitt [Images] turned up some heat of their own with barnstorming victories.

Hewitt, a former world number one seeded 19th here, beat Steve Darcis 6-0, 6-3, 6-0 and Djokovic swatted aside Benjamin Becker 6-0, 6-2, 7-6.

"I started really well," 20-year-old Djokovic said. "Honestly saying, I was nervous before the match, knowing that I'm a big favourite in the first round."

Hewitt was in intimidating form in front of a home crowd.

"In the end I felt like I could do pretty much what I wanted to do out there and play on my terms, which is good," he said.

"I felt like I went out there and was aggressive and took what I've been working on in practice on to the match court."

Women's fourth seed Ana Ivanovic eased past Romania's Sorana Cirstea 7-5, 6-3 while second seed Svetlana Kuznetsova swept past France's [Images] Nathalie Dechy 6-3, 6-1 in just over an hour.

"I just try to do my best every single match," Kuznetsova told the crowd. "Everyone who plays a grand slam is a great player so..."

Sixth seed Anna Chakvetadze [Images] was spared the sapping sun when Germany's [Images] Andrea Petkovic retired with a knee injury in the first game of their match.

Djokovic oozed confidence in his opener, racing through the first seven games of the match and clinching the opening set in 22 minutes.

Becker, whose claim to fame is that he ended Andre Agassi's [Images] career by beating him at the 2006 U.S. Open, had no answers in the second set either and, despite a rally in the third, offered little resistance to the Serb.

Djokovic, seeking his first grand slam title, plays Italian Simone Bolelli in the second round.

"It's natural that you feel the pressure," Djokovic said of the added expectation this year as third seed. "If you don't feel pressure something is wrong with you, but it's a matter of how you deal with the pressure.

"I'm trying not to think about that too much, about the expectations, about the people saying, 'you got enough quality to win a Grand Slam this year, especially in Australia or US Open, because of the hard courts'.

"It's very flattering ... but, you know, it kind of puts a lot of pressure on me. I'm only 20 years old, so hopefully, you know, I'm going to have another 10 or 15 years of professional tennis."

Women's ninth seed Daniela Hantuchova [Images] survived a decent work out before downing American Vania King 6-3, 7-5, though she too refused to speculate on her chances.

"I was just really pleased to get through in two sets, it was tough out there," the Slovak smiled.

"It was very tight. I was just pleased with the way I hung in there and played the big points well. That was...crucial today.

"I'm fully fit and so I just want to go out there and enjoy it."

Venus survives late lapse

Venus Williams survived a strong rearguard action from Yan Zi of China before advancing to the second round with a 6-2, 7-5 win.

The Wimbledon champion led 5-2 in the second set only for world number 61 Yan to level at 5-5, but the American recovered her poise to clinch victory in 74 minutes.

"I felt good out there and had a lot of fun," Williams told reporters. "I hit a lot of shots which was good. She really stayed in there, definitely made me play some balls that I wasn't expecting to come back."

Eighth seed Williams, seeking her first Australian Open title, cruised through the first set, taking it on Yan's second double fault.

The Chinese player broke for a 2-0 lead in the second before Williams hit back to win five successive games.

A series of unforced errors from Williams allowed Yan back into the match but the six-times Grand Slam champion, who missed last year's Australian Open through injury, broke in the 12th game to clinch victory.

"I'm definitely physically here this year so I'm looking to improve on my results. I've come close to winning. I'd like to try again."

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