Flawless Federer Races Through First Test In Melbourne

Federer going for seventh Australian Open title

After 21 consecutive appearances at the Australian Open, Roger Federer is familiar with every inch of Rod Laver Arena. The third-seeded Swiss brought the level of comfort that dozens of matches on a court can provide to his opening-round clash with Steve Johnson, sweeping aside the American 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 in a breathtaking display.

Federer said in his pre-tournament press conference that his expectations for this fortnight were low, but the six-time champion may want to raise them after his latest performance. He broke the American five times and remains unbeaten in first round matches in Melbourne (21-0). Federer hasn't lost his opening match at a Grand Slam since 2003.

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”I think I became a better player. Thirty-two seeds helped, to keep more of these better-ranked players away. When I came up on Tour, there were only 16 seeds,” Federer said of his early-round success at Grand Slams. “I guess I created a game which allowed me to manage all kinds of opponents.

”I’m happy that I was able to manage those first rounds. As we know, they can always be very tricky. That’s why [ATP] Masters 1000 [tournaments] are tough sometimes. You can play a Top 20 player in the first round and that’s when it gets tough.”

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Johnson arrived with confidence after winning an ATP Challenger Tour event last week in Bendigo. But his off-pace slice backhands and chip forehand returns played into Federer’s strengths, allowing the Swiss to attack with his forehand and move forward. A forehand volley winner gave Federer an immediate break in Johnson's opening service game and he led 4-1 after 18 minutes.

Rain briefly brought both players off the court so the roof could be closed, but it did little to disrupt Federer’s momentum. He continued to coast in his service games and grabbed the early advantage. 

The second set was one-way traffic for Federer, who won 16 of the first 18 points and sprinted to a 4-0 lead. Even when Johnson made the correct play, he was often reduced to a spectator as he watched Federer whip winners past him. Federer landed 80 per cent of his first serves (16/20), consistently setting himself up for one-two punches to end points. A forehand winner from the Swiss, his 26th of the match, gave him a commanding two-sets lead.

Federer opened the third set by once again jumping out in front with an early break. He comfortably served out the match on his first try to wrap up play after just 85 minutes. Federer improved to 3-0 in his ATP Head2Head with Johnson and has yet to drop a set against the American.

Next up for Federer is Serbian Filip Krajinovic or French qualifier Quentin Halys.

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