Tennis: Dominant Roger Federer off and running

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ROGER Federer opened up his Australian Open challenge – and his season – with a routine straight-sets victory over France’s Benoit Paire today.

The second seed came to Melbourne having played no warm-up tournaments, but showed no signs of rustiness as he kicked off his bid for a fourth Australian Open title with a 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 win over the world No. 46 in just 83 minutes.

For Paire, who deals more in spurts of inspiration than the sustained brilliance of Federer, it was a painful experience and by the end he looked keen to get off court as quickly as possible.

Federer said: “Benoit’s a good player, a good talent. I haven’t played a match this season yet. You’re not sure [how you’re going to play] and that’s why you’re relieved when you get through the first one.”

Federer, who won the pair’s only previous encounter in straight sets, was immediately into his stride as he broke in game one, then produced a wonderful pick-up at net in his opening service game, going on to save two break points to hold for a 2-0 lead. Paire held twice, but Federer broke again for 5-2 then served out in style.

Paire opened up set two with back-to-back aces to help take the first game. But normal service was resumed as Federer broke for 2-1 then held to love to take a firm grip on the second set. Federer then broke to open the third and, with all hope lost, Paire came out swinging, but he was missing more than he was hitting. Paire’s game descended into trick shots as he attempted – unsuccessfully – a volley between his legs as he served to stay in the match.

Staying in the match looked like the very last thing he wanted, though, and Federer closed it out at the second attempt.

Afterward, the Swiss, who will next face either Israel’s Dudi Sela or former world No. 3 Nikolay Davydenko or Russia, explained his decision to play no warm-up matches.

“I’ve had a few busy years since I had kids,” he said. “I just wanted to cool down a bit. It’s nice to enjoy the off season. I hope it’s the right decision, we’ll see how it goes.”