How far can Federer go this Aus Open?
How far can Federer go this Aus Open?

Classy Federer silences critics in clinical display

It took Roger Federer barely 60 seconds.

Heralding a sublime serving performance - and a 6-3 6-2 6-2 first-round win over American Steve Johnson - the Swiss sorcerer surged through the opening game.

As a statement, it was double-edged, deflating Johnson and rebuffing doubters.

There was none of the forecast rust.

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Roger Federer is through to the second round of the Aus Open. Picture: Michael Klein
Roger Federer is through to the second round of the Aus Open. Picture: Michael Klein

The first game became the template for an 81-minute rout - unforced error from Johnson, a Federer ace and two unreturnable missiles.

The dye was cast early, ridiculing theories Federer would be vulnerable without contesting either the ATP Cup or an official lead-up tournament.

With only the benefit of an exhibition in China against Alexander Zverev to build form and confidence, six-time champion Federer again proved why he a legitimate contender.

The numbers around his grooved serve were instructive - 11 aces and winning percentages of more than 80 on both first and second deliveries.

It was death, for Johnson, by suffocation. Federer gave nothing as battle-hardened Johnson was demolished by the sport's silkiest assassin.

At 38, Federer is supposedly in descent.


Federer made short work of his American opponent. Picture: Michael Klein
Federer made short work of his American opponent. Picture: Michael Klein


But, if preparation is a measure, the most decorated male in tennis remains as fervent as ever.

"I trained really hard like I always do," he said.

"I'm just so happy that I didn't have any setbacks and that sets you up really nicely for the season.

"Regardless of how it goes here, you just know you have that block in you. In practice I felt good, and I'm happy it showed on the court as well."

Contesting a record 21st consecutive Australian Open, Federer is participating in a record 79th major.

For all his longevity, the right-hander is concentrating on simplicity.

"Look, I just haven't played proper matches in many, many weeks, and a lot of guys, probably 95 per cent of the guys are coming here with matches," he said.

"So I'm not one of those guys. Now I have one (match). Best of five, too, which is even better.

"So I think for me really the first three rounds are key to get going, to get used to the pressure, stay calm, when to save breakpoint or 30-all points or whatever it may be or just to stay calm if you're down a set and a break or whatever it might be.

"This is sort of the unknown that can be a little bit scary at times.

"But today there was none of that because I broke early each set and was able to get on a roll, play freely after that. And also felt I had margin.

"You know, anything I was doing I felt like I had the game under control.

"That might not be the case in the next round, so I just think I have to be careful. Round-by-round, point-for-point mentality.

"I know other guys that are playing extremely well right now so I think it's just important to stay very calm about things right now."

No-one in the field is calmer right now - with the possible exception of Novak Djokovic.