Roger Federer began his Australian Open title defence with a comfortable 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 victory over Aljaz Bedene.
In many ways, this constituted an ideal first round for Federer, with Bedene posing a firm but far from insurmountable challenge. The Slovenian competed gamely in his first match against the 19-time Grand Slam champion, but early breaks in each set set the tone for Federer, who was always on course for a routine victory.
Plain sailing indeed, then. But the 36-year-old warned of choppier waters ahead, suggesting that even he may not be able to replicate the feats of last year.
“I’m hoping for it to go well again; I’m just not sure if it can go this well.” he said. “Last year was just so good that I’m just worried. I kind of know it won’t be [as good]. I’m a year older, guys are coming back again – Rafa’s in tip-top shape. I can’t control it all.
“And last year was a fairytale. And last year was last year. That’s the problem, but that’s the beauty of it. It’s the favourite year of my career. So this year I’m just hoping to stay healthy, stay out there, give myself chances and hopefully be in those big matches like last year so that I can play my very best and enjoy myself out there in front of a big crowd, keep working hard and see what happens at the end.”
Perhaps the most taxing moment of Federer’s evening, though, came during the post-match interview, when celebrity spectator Will Ferrell joined John McEnroe to grill the Swiss…
Barty stays alive
If Ashleigh Barty’s opening encounter at the Australian Open is anything to go by, then her campaign this year will reduce life spans across the country.
The home favourite was forced to go to the well against Belarusian teenager Aryna Sabalenka, who at times threatened to blow the No.18 seed off court and out of the tournament.
Boasting an artillery of groundstrokes that would draw envious glances from Serena Williams, much of the first set was on Sabalenka’s racket, and she silenced the crowd by recovering from an early break down to take the opener on a tie-break.
Only once before had Barty won a Grand Slam match after losing the first set, and she had to withstand more Sabalenka assaults in the second. But Barty is nothing if not resilient, and she showed remarkable mental fortitude to resist her opponent’s whirlwind approach, slowly grinding the teenager down and asserting her own authority on the match.
After forcing a third set, Barty broke for a 4-2 lead in the decider, and maintained her advantage to seal her passage to the third round.
Around the Grounds
Given the multitude of injuries afflicting the sport right now, it must be something of a novel experience for Juan Martin del Potro to be considered one of the more robust players participating in Melbourne.
But the Argentinean, who returned to the top 10 on Monday, reinforced his credentials as a title contender as he nullified the threat of Frances Tiafoe, containing the teenager to a 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 scoreline.
Elsewhere, there were straight sets wins for No.3 and No.5 seeds Garbine Muguruza and Dominic Thiem. Meanwhile, in the day session matches that overran into the night, Andrea Petkovic claimed a 6-4, 3-6, 10-8 epic over Petra Kvitova, Tomas Berdych brought an end to Alex De Minaur's exhilarating summer of tennis in four sets and Heather Watson fell to Yulia Putintseva 5-7, 6-7(6).