Melbourne – Roger Federer showed few signs of rustiness in his first match of the year in marching to a consummate straight-sets win at the Australian Open on Tuesday.
The record 17-time Grand Slam champion, who went into the year's first major without a lead-up tournament, demolished nonplussed Frenchman Benoit Paire 6-2, 6-4, 6-1 in 1hr 23min on Rod Laver Arena.
It was the 31-year-old Swiss maestro's first official match since the ATP World Tour finals in London last November, although he played in a series of exhibitions in South America last month.
But Federer seamlessly took up where he left off two months ago in tearing Paire apart. The world number two gave Paire little respite with six service breaks, while his own serve was rock-solid with no breaks conceded.
There was little the 46th-ranked Paire could do to stop the flow of winners off the racquet of Federer, who made a smooth start to his quest for a fifth Australian Open crown.
“I do have some options in my game and I used them well today,” Federer said.
“I kept coming in at him as well to shorten the rallies and make him feel the pressure. I guess that was the good play today against him.”
Federer is bidding to become only the second man after Australia's Roy Emerson to win five Australian Open titles since his first Melbourne triumph in 2004. Emerson won six Australian titles from 1961-1967.
The Swiss second seed dominated the points won 95-63 and was on song with his serve, winning 84 percent of the first service points.
“I'm happy, he's a good player, good talent and I have not played a match this season yet so I wasn't sure and that's why you're relieved when you're through the first one,” Federer said.
“I guess the advantage for us as top players is that we do play against top players more often than they do.
“So we're used to bigger serves all around, better movement, more unpredictable stuff, which they don't get the opportunity to play against.”
Federer is playing in his 53rd straight Grand Slam event. He could return to the top ranking if he wins this year's Australian title and incumbent Novak Djokovic loses before the semi-finals.
Federer broke Paire's serve twice in the opening set, and with a rapier backhand winner in the third game of the following set, and three more times in the final set.
The Swiss legend has now never lost in the first round in 14
appearances at the Australian Open and has a 15-match winning streak against French opponents. – Sapa-AFP