Tennis

Roger Federer beats John Millman, avenges US Open defeat

Swiss great off to a winning start in grass-court season

Roger Federer began his run-up to Wimbledon with a win and also started his bid for a record-extending 10th Halle Open title by beating Australian John Millman in straight sets on Tuesday.

World No. 3 Federer won his first grass-court game of the season 7-6 (7/1), 6-3 on a muggy evening to set up a second-round meeting with French veteran Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Competing in his first match since being beaten by eventual champion Rafael Nadal in the French Open semi-finals, the Swiss proved too strong for Millman.

World No. 57 Millman, who had beaten Federer in four sets in their previous encounter at last year's US Open, put up a strong fight in the opening set but was no match for his opponent at the contest wore on.

"It is always important to win your first game on grass, because otherwise the grass season can be very short," said 20-time Grand Slam winner Federer.

Tsonga, 34, said it would be "something special" to face Federer after he beat compatriot Benoit Paire 6-4, 7-5.

KEEPY-UPPY

The 30-year-old Paire, infamous for his on-court tantrums, was given a warning in the first set after throwing his racket, but had the crowd laughing in the second when he and Tsonga engaged in a spontaneous keepy-uppy rally.

"I am happy to have won because Benoit is a dangerous player. It is always difficult to dominate against him, you always feel the game can change at any moment," Tsonga said.

The Frenchman faces Federer today and can boast of a perfect record against the Swiss on grass, having won their only meeting on the surface in 2011.

Last year's winner Borna Coric eased to a 7-6 (7/2), 6-3 win over Spain's Jaume Munar in his first-round tie, while home favourite Jan-Lennard Struff beat Serbia's Laslo Djere 6-4, 6-4 to claim his first-ever singles victory in Halle.

"I used to live nearby. I would come here every year and lose, so it is great to have finally won," said Struff.

There was to be less joy for the Halle crowd as Germans Mats Moraing, Peter Gojowczyk and Rudolf Molleker were all knocked out on Tuesday.

On top of that, world No. 5 and rising star Alexander Zverev pulled out of the doubles tournament with a knee problem.

Zverev, who hurt his knee during a first-round win over Robin Haase on Monday, remains in the singles draw and will face American Steve Johnson today.

Moraing lost 4-6, 6-7 (4/7) to Italy's Andreas Seppi, while Ukrainian Sergiy Stakhovsky came from behind to beat Molleker 3-6, 7-6 (8/6), 6-2.

Gojowczyk was crushed 6-3, 6-4 by France's Richard Gasquet. Gasquet will face seventh seed Roberto Bautista Agut in the second round after the Spaniard cruised to a 7-6 (12/10), 6-0 victory over American Taylor Fritz.

Meanwhile, at the Queen's Club Championships in England, rain forced the postponement of several matches, including Andy Murray's appearance in the men's doubles. - AFP

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