Tennis

Fresh Federer off to winning start

Swiss third seed puts on masterclass of clean hitting to progress to second round

A rampaging Roger Federer kicked off his 17th Australian Open campaign with a 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 demolition of Georgian battler Nikoloz Basilashvili to reach the second round yesterday.

On a day when match-fixing allegations cast a pall over the tournament's opening matches, the purity of Federer's game shone through in a floodlit Rod Laver Arena as the Swiss master put on a masterclass of clean hitting.

Spared the sweltering conditions of the day session, Federer barely raised a sweat in hammering Basilashvili, sending 31 winners whistling past the 117th-ranked Georgian.

Having battled the flu during his run to the final of the Brisbane International, the 34-year-old Federer - a winner of four Australian Open titles - was grateful to save his energy for more taxing encounters ahead.

PERFECT RECORD

"I'm really pleased with how I was able to play. Definitely gives me a bit of a lift in confidence, you know, because this year I haven't been able to play properly yet," said Federer.

"I mean, I had some decent matches in Brisbane, but it was all under sort of a cloud knowing that I wasn't 100 per cent.

"But this was a match where I was able to focus on my game, on tactics, all that stuff. So it was nice to play that way."

Federer's only wobble came early, when he surrendered serve in the sixth game of the first set, but he responded by winning six straight games to leave the Georgian reeling.

The Swiss third seed preserved his perfect record of surviving the opening round at the year's first Grand Slam, but faces a stiffer test against the 35th-ranked Alexandr Dolgopolov, a hard-hitting Ukrainian with two Tour titles.

"It's going to be very tough, to be honest," said Federer, who practised with the mercurial 27-year-old in the off-season in Dubai.

"He's got the fitness, the power, the speed, tennis IQ, all that."

World No. 1 and defending champions Novak Djokovic also raced into the second round yesterday, although the Serb's main opponent was the 35-deg C heat.

Cooling himself with ice vests on the change-overs, the top seed dispatched South Korean rising star Chung Hyeon, who is ranked 52 in the world, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.

"You try to stay composed, not get carried away by heat, get distracted," said Djokovic, who was forced out of the 2009 quarter-finals as he struggled with the heat.

"Of course, there were some long rallies, long exchanges that got both of us a little bit short on air. But, physically, I was really good on the court."

Kei Nishikori, Tomas Berdych and Australia's Nick Kyrgios also progressed to the next round.

- Wire Services.

australian openRoger FedererNIKOLOZ BASILASHVILI