Defending champion Roger Federer dazzled under the Australian Open lights to waltz through to the second round with a straight sets win over Aljaz Bedene on Tuesday.
The ageless Swiss marvel, rated as the favourite to win his 20th Grand Slam title, thrilled the Rod Laver Arena crowd with a virtuoso performance.
The second seed cruised to a 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 win in 1hr 39min and will next play German Jan-Lennard Struff.
It improved his Australian Open record to 88-13 in his 19th campaign Down Under.
Federer, who insists he is too old at 36 to be rated the tournament favourite, put away the 51st-ranked Slovenian with a catalogue of his signature shot-making.
“My dream was always to play a long time on tour and we had a few guys playing a long time and I think that inspired me,” he said post-match.
“I’m loving it and hopefully I can play for a little longer.”
Ron Burgundy: “Have you ever tasted wombat food? It is delicious! The national food of Australia.”
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Federer raced to the first set in 26 minutes and claimed the second on his fourth set point as Bedene raised his level.
The Swiss great thrilled the centre court night crowd with an exquisite curving forehand down the line and past Bedene for another service break early in the final set.
Federer is coming off an extraordinary 2017, when he won a fifth Australian Open title and a record eighth at Wimbledon, and the way things are shaping there could be yet more glory with his main threats scrambling to be ready.
It was in Melbourne a year ago where he lit the fuse on his late-life Tennis renaissance, beating Tomas Berdych, Kei Nishikori, Mischa Zverev and Stan Wawrinka before downing great rival Rafael Nadal in a five-set final classic.
“I was thinking a lot about what happened at the tournament last year because it was my favourite tournament of the whole season … it was such a surprise,” Federer said.
“I’m hoping for it to go well again, I’m not sure it can go this well because last year was so good.
“I’m a year older and guys are coming back … I can’t control it all.
“Last year was last year … it could be my favourite year of my career. I’ll keep working hard and see what happens at the end.”
Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka sailed through injury tests at the Australian Open on Tuesday with focused former champion Maria Sharapova also successfully getting back to business after her drug ban.
Twelve-time Grand Slam winner Djokovic has been out of action for six months with an elbow injury, but you wouldn’t have known it in his 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 demolition of American Donald Young.
Former Melbourne champion Wawrinka also returned from half a year on the sidelines after knee surgery, having only decided he was fit to play at the weekend.
With the temperatures heating up, he was pushed to four sets by Ricardas Berankis before prevailing 6-3, 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (7/2) in a tough workout he said was “proud” to come through.
Djokovic, gunning for a seventh Australian Open title, was also glad to be back, having missed the competitive edge.
“I wanted to start with the right intensity, which I have,” he told the cheering crowd afterwards. “I played perfect tennis in the first couple of sets and Donald came back in the third set.”
World number one Simona Halep booked her place in round two, avoiding the first round exit that befell her in the past two years. But she made a meal of it against local hope Destanee Aiava.
Both the Romanian and her 17-year-old wildcard opponent needed on-court medical attention before the top seed ran out a battling 7-6 (7/5), 6-1 winner.
Sharapova, still working her way back from a 15-month ban for taking the performance-enhancing substance meldonium in Australia in 2016, showed glimpses of the tennis that made her a five-time major winner. The 2008 Melbourne Park champion, now ranked 48, beat Germany’s Tatjana Maria 6-1, 6-4 in her first Melbourne match in two years.
“I cherish these moments. I love it here,” said the Russian, who returned from her drugs ban in April last year.
“It’s been a couple of years and I wanted it to be really meaningful to me.” – Goodbye 2017 – Fellow former world number one Angelique Kerber, who won the tournament in 2016, was also impressive in dismissing Anna-Lena Friedsam 6-0, 6-4.
“2017, I have said goodbye already, I am not looking back,” she said after a forgettable last season that saw her relinquish the number one spot and slide down the rankings.
She is now on a 10-match win streak after a perfect early season.
Sixth seed Karolina Pliskova and eighth seed Caroline Garcia also progressed, in contrast to the other side of the draw that saw Venus Williams, Sloane Stephens and Coco Vandeweghe crash out on Monday.
American woes continued with Madison Brengle sent packing by British ninth seed Johanna Konta.
Young gun Alexander Zverev, seeded four, and Belgian seventh seed David Goffin were among men to make the second round.
But Canada’s Milos Raonic, who has made at least the last eight over the past three years in Melbourne, was bundled out by 86th-ranked Slovakian Lukas Lacko in four sets.
It was his earliest Grand Slam exit in seven years as he fights back from a wrist injury. Roger Federer, rated as favourite to win his 20th Grand Slam title even at the venerable age of 36, makes his entrance in a night match on Rod Laver Arena.
The second seeded Swiss, who is coming off an extraordinary 2017, when he won a fifth Australian Open title and a record eighth at Wimbledon, faces Slovenia’s Aljaz Bedene.
Third seeded Garbine Muguruza also makes her bow in an evening match. Former world number one Pliskova was among those to move smoothly into the second round, with a steady 6-3, 6-4 win over Veronica Cepede Royg. ”
I’ll take it match by match and I think I have a good chance,” said the tall tattooed Czech, who made the quarter-final in Australia last year.
Sydney-born Konta also made the last eight in 2017 and showed no signs of her recent hip injury as she dismantled Brengle 6-3, 6-1.
Provided by AFP Sport
World number one Simona Halep had to come from 5-2 and a set point down against Australian teenager Destanee Aiava to win a dramatic first-round match at the Australian Open on Tuesday.
Both the Romanian and her 17-year-old wildcard opponent needed on-court medical attention before top seed Halep ran out a battling 7-6 (7-5), 6-1 winner in an hour and 51 minutes.
The top seed had fallen at the first hurdle in the past two years at Melbourne Park and another shock was beckoning when the big-hitting Australian took a 5-2 lead in the first set buoyed by rowdy home supporters.
“She was a very tough opponent,” said a relieved Halep after the match.
“She’s very talented and powerful. She reminds me a little bit of Serena Williams.”
“It was a pleasure to be back here on centre court.”
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But the fearless teenager’s charge to the first set in her first appearance on Rod Laver Arena came to a dramatic halt as she called for a medical timeout at the change of ends, complaining of breathing problems.
After her blood pressure and pulse were taken she departed for further treatment.
On her return she managed to get to set point on the Romanian’s serve, but once Halep held the tide turned.
Aiava was still dazed and even tried to change ends at 5-3 in her confused state until the umpire gently ushered her back.
Halep showed little of the form which helped her to the Shenzhen title two weeks ago but used her all experience to extend the rallies and force the ailing Australian to dig deep.
Halep eventually forced a tiebreak and finally squeezed over the finish line 7-5 in the tiebreaker to snatch a marathon first set after 73 minutes.
After racing into a 2-0 lead to start the second there was more drama when Halep rolled her ankle horribly chasing down a backhand and fell to the ground needing immediate attention from the physio.
But when she returned with her right ankle newly taped she immediately broke Aiava for 3-0, a moment greeted by almost silence from the home supporters who badly needed to be lifted by the fast-fading Aiava.
But it wasn’t to be as Halep got to the second round for the first time since 2015.
“I have a little injury so I don’t know how it is going to be,” Halep said of her ankle. “But it was a nice atmosphere out here even though you were all supporting her.”
She now faces a mouth-watering clash against Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard, a former semi-finalist in Melbourne and Roland Garros, and a finalist at Wimbledon in 2014.