Australian Open 2018: Roger Federer begins title defence in style, heavily-strapped Garbine Muguruza advances

Melbourne: 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.

Roger Federer began his title defence in style against Aljaz Bedene while Garbine Muguruza beat Jessika Ponchet. AP

Roger Federer began his title defence in style against Aljaz Bedene while Garbine Muguruza beat Jessika Ponchet. AP

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."

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."

Muguruza labours through

Garbine Muguruza wore heavy strapping on her injured right thigh as she laboured to a 6-4, 6-3 victory against wildcard Jessika Ponchet in the Australian Open first round on Tuesday.

The World No 3 took an hour and 24 minutes to quell the virtually unknown 21-year-old French World No 256.

Muguruza said before her match she was hoping to be "pain-free" to begin her Australian Open campaign, but her mobility was hampered and she looked anything but fully fit against Ponchet.

A quarter-finalist in Melbourne last year, Spain's Muguruza dropped her first service game but from there battled back to take the first set in 43 minutes.

"It wasn't easy. I didn't know anything about her," said Muguruza of her opponent who was making her first main draw appearance in a WTA event, let alone a Grand Slam.

"She's super talented. Serves and volleys, so I had to stay very concentrated."

The Wimbledon champion had a problematic start to the year, pulling out of the Sydney International to protect her right thigh.

Only a week earlier she had retired from the Brisbane International with severe cramps.

Her bad luck almost continued when she clutched her left knee as her shoe stuck awkwardly in the court at 2-2, 30-30 in the second set, bringing gasps from the Margaret Court Arena crowd.

But she recovered to outlast Ponchet in a game that went to a marathon six deuces and take a break of serve and then broke again to seal the win.

Muguruza, seeded three, next faces Taiwan's Hsieh Su-Wei who prevailed in a see-saw match against China's Zhu Lin 0-6, 6-0, 8-6.

The two-time Grand Slam winner is in the same half of the draw as World No 1 Simona Halep and is projected to face another Frenchwoman, No 8 seed, Caroline Garcia, in the quarters.


Updated Date: Jan 16, 2018 16:37 PM

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