Tennis

Federer turns opening match into exhibition with 41 winners

Defending champion turns opening match into an exhibition with 41 winners

Defending champion Roger Federer moved into the second round of the Australian Open with a straight-set win over Slovenia's Aljaz Bedene yesterday.

The 36-year-old Swiss master turned the evening clash at a packed Rod Laver Arena into an exhibition, as he struck 41 winners to defeat a willing but outclassed Bedene 6-3, 6-4, 6-3.

In the rest of the men's bracket, top seeds Dominic Thiem, Stan Wawrinka, Alexander Zverev, Juan Martin del Potro, Tomas Berdych and David Goffin all booked their place in the second round with relative ease, with Milos Raonic the only notable casualty.

The only time Federer looked remotely stumped came during a post-match interview conducted by American comedian Will Ferrell, who told him he had played like a "silky gazelle".

"Don't they get eaten in the end?," Federer ventured before being asked whether he was a witch or a vampire, and whether his age-defying performances were down to a diet of wombat meat.

"I was a bit scared," Federer joked. "I'm happy I dodged some questions there."

While Ferrell provided some comedy, Federer, who insisted that he is too old to be considered favourite, again proved that when it comes to tennis, he is king of the jungle.

Any player hoping to stop him retaining his crown and claiming a record 20th Grand Slam title will have to be pretty special on this evidence.

Federer looked just as imperious as when he won the last five games to beat Rafael Nadal in last year's thrilling final and end a five-year wait for his 18th Major.

Poor Bedene, no mean performer at world No. 51, can at least say he has witnessed Federer's brilliance first-hand, having never faced him before.

He played his part in entertaining exchanges but Federer, sporting a diagonal pink stripe on his immaculate white kit, was in one of those moods when he could strike winners at will.

He broke Bedene's serve in the fourth game of the first set in which he conceded only three points on his serve.

Federer pounced immediately at the start of the second, producing a fizzing backhand return before leaping to smash away Bedene's defensive lob.

The winners began to pile up and one member of the sell-out crowd yelled, "Give him a chance, Rog" late on.

But Federer was in no mood to hang around and finished the match on Bedene's serve when his opponent netted a backhand.

ANOTHER GOOD YEAR

"I am hoping for another good year," Federer, who also won Wimbledon for a record eighth time last year, said on court.

"I am not sure it will go as well (as 2017) because I'm a year older, Rafa's looking in tip-top shape and others guys are coming back."

His next opponent will be Germany's Jan-Lennard Struff tomorrow, when temperatures in Melbourne are expected to rise to about 40 deg C.

"I'll ask for a night match just because I played night tonight.

"It's just easier, to be honest, rather than going from night to day to night to day to night to day," Federer said. - REUTERS

Tennis