17 Jan 2018

Federer cruises, big names advance

6:18 am on 17 January 2018

Defending champion Roger Federer cruised to a first up victory at the Australian Open and was joined in the second round by former champions Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka.

Roger Federer

Roger Federer Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Federer, bidding for his 20th grand slam title, beat Aljaz Bedene 6-3 6-4 6-3 at Melbourne Park, Djokovic defeated Donald Young 6-1 6-2 6-4 and Wawrinka battled to a 6-3 6-4 2-6 7-6(2) win over Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis.

Federer will next face Germany's Jan-Lennard Struff, who hit 45 winners, including 19 aces, past wildcard Kwon Soon-woo of South Korea in a 6-1 6-2 6-4 victory in 77 minutes.

The Swiss star's victory continued the longest first-round winning streak in tennis, making it 19 successive tournament-opening wins at the Australian Open.

The world No.2 and title favourite went unbroken in his win on Rod Laver Arena in just one hour and 39 minutes.

Federer was untroubled, returning to the scene of his remarkable comeback win last year for the first time.

"I was thinking back a lot about what happened last year because it was my favourite tournament last year hands down," he said after the win.

"Walking out here ... being back here in Melbourne is an amazing feeling and hopefully I can keep it going a little bit longer."

His trickiest adversary might have been a cringe-worthy post-match engagement with actor Will Ferrell.

In his famous Anchorman persona of newsreader Ron Burgundy, Ferrell asked the 36-year-old if he felt like a young gazelle on court.

"Maybe. Maybe not. Don't they get eaten in the end?" Federer replied.

In the women's draw, world number one Simona Halep beat 17-year-old Destanee Aiava 7-6(5) 6-1 as top players including Garbine Muguruza, Maria Sharapova, Angelique Kerber, Karolina Pliskova and Johanna Konta registered opening victories.

Kristina Mladenovic and Petra Kvitova were the surprise early exits in the women's singles while Canadian Milos Raonic, seeded 23rd, was the biggest upset loser on the men's side.

Leading men's contenders Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem, Juan Martin Del Potro, Tomas Berdych and David Goffin booked second-round spots.

Australian 18th-seed Ashleigh Barty beat Belarus' Aryna Sabalenka 6-7(7) 6-4 6-4 in the first round but faces a tough test against Italian Camila Giorgi in the next stage.

Argentina's Juan Mart+n del Potro, who last played at the Australian Open in 2014, battled to a 6-3 6-4 6-3 win over American Frances Tiafoe to set up a second-round clash with Russia's Karen Khachanov.

Austrian fifth-seed Dominic Thiem brushed Argentina's Guido Pella aside with a dominant 6-4 6-4 6-4 win and will face American qualifier Denis Kudla in the second round.

Kazakhstan's Yulia Putintseva earned a hard-fought 7-5 7-6(6) victory over Heather Watson, meaning Johanna Konta and Kyle Edmund are the only British hopes left to claim the Melbourne Park title.

Czech 19th-seed Tomas Berdych ended Australian youngster Alex De Minaur's strong start to the season with a 6-3 3-6 6-0 6-1 win over the 18-year-old.

Women's world number three Garbine Muguruza breezed into the second round with a 6-4 6-3 win over French wildcard Jessika Ponchet.

German Andrea Petkovic won the final three games to beat two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova 6-3 4-6 10-8 in a thrilling first-round encounter, which lasted two hours and 52 minutes.

World number one Simona overcame an ankle injury to move on to the next round after a 7-6(5) 6-1 victory over Australian teenager Destanee Aiava.

Halep praised Aiava, ranked 193 in the world, for her booming groundstrokes, which helped earn the 17-year-old wildcard two set points in the opener.

"She's a little bit like Serena (Williams), she's hitting the ball strong, she's a powerful girl and for sure she will be good in the future." Halep said.

Six-time Australian Open champion Djokovic beat American Young to reach the second round for a 12th consecutive year.

"A month ago I didn't know if I was going to come to Australia or not because the elbow was still not prepared for this level of competition," Djokovic, playing his first match since Wimbledon last year, said in an on-court interview.

Canadian Eugenie Bouchard ended a six-match losing run on the tour by beating France's Oceane Dodin 6-3 7-6(5).