Federer drops set, wins opener in Australia
MELBOURNE, Australia – The last time Roger Federer played at Rod Laver Arena, he left in tears after losing the Australian Open final to Rafael Nadal a year ago.
There were no such waterworks Tuesday, just a few tense moments for the Swiss star seeking his 16th Grand Slam title in a 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (2), 6-0 first-round win over Igor Andreev of Russia.
Federer lost the first set after leading by a break, then saved three set points in the 12th game of the third set before winning the tiebreaker and dominating the fourth set.
It was a far cry from last year when Federer shed tears after having missed his first chance to equal Pete Sampras’ 14 Grand Slam titles – a feat he later achieved and surpassed with wins at the French Open and Wimbledon.
“It’s killing me …. maybe I’ll try later,” Federer said last January when he was not able to speak initially at the trophy presentation.
On Tuesday, Federer was all smiles at the courtside television interview with two-time Australian Open champion Jim Courier. Now a TV commentator, Courier reminded Federer that he had not lost a set in the first round of a major in more than six years.
“I did know it was going to be tough, we played five sets in New York two years back and I really had to adjust my game to beat him,” Federer said of Andreev. “I think I definitely got lucky to get out of that one. It was a fortunate third set today. I prefer easier matches, but this worked as well.”
Top-ranked Serena Williams, the defending champion, had an easy first-rounder, beating Urszula Radwanska of Poland 6-2, 6-1. Her sister, sixth-seeded Venus, cruised past Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic 6-2, 6-2.
Melanie Oudin, the 18-year-old American who made a surprising run to last year’s U.S. Open quarterfinals, lost her first-round match 2-6, 7-5, 7-5 to Alla Kudryavtseva of Russia. Oudin has won just one WTA Tour match since the U.S. Open.
Americans James Blake and John Isner reached the second round, but No. 25 Sam Querrey lost to German Rainer Schuettler. Blake had a 7-5, 7-5, 6-2 win over Frenchman Arnaud Clement, while Isner held off Andreas Seppi of Italy 6-3, 6-3, 3-6, 5-7, 6-4.
Third-seeded Novak Djokovic defeated Daniel Gimeno-Traver of Spain 7-5, 6-3, 6-2 in a night match. Djokovic won his first and only Grand Slam at the 2008 Australian Open, losing just one set during the two-week tournament and beat Roger Federer in the semifinals.
Hometown favorite Lleyton Hewitt, still trying to win his first Australian Open after losing in the 2005 final to Marat Safin, opened with a 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 win over qualifier Ricardo Hocevar of Brazil.
Serena Williams’ record in the first round of the Slams is even more impressive than Federer’s – she has never lost an opener.
“I was a little nervous today because that’s always on the back of my mind,” Williams said. “Records are meant to be broken. This one means a lot to me … just to have an opportunity to have not lost yet in the first round of a Grand Slam – knock on wood – is really good for me.”
Williams’ demeanor was also far different from her last Grand Slam appearance at last year’s U.S Open. An outburst against a line judge who called a foot fault cost Williams the match, a record fine of $82,500 and a suspended ban. That means she could miss a U.S. Open if she has another outburst at any Grand Slam event in the next two years.
“I always said what I did wasn’t right … I don’t know whoever got fined like that. People said worse, done worse. I just thought it was a bit much.”
The 28-year-old American hurt her left knee at the Sydney International on Friday and later said she’s been bothered by a foot problem. She played with her right thigh heavily wrapped on Tuesday, but said it was more for precaution.
Williams’ win in 73 minutes contrasted what the WTA Tour said was a record for the longest women’s match at a major in the Open era. Barbora Zahlavova Strycova of the Czech Republic needed 4 hours, 19 minutes to beat Regina Kulikova of Russia 7-6 (5), 6-7 (10), 6-3.
Meanwhile, No. 8 Jelena Jankovic, No. 11 Marion Bartoli, No. 13 Sam Stosur and No. 19 Nadia Petrova advanced along with No. 26 Aravane Rezai, who beat India’s Sania Mirza 6-4, 6-2.
No. 18 Virginie Razzano lost 6-2, 6-3 to Russia’s Ekaterina Makarova and American Vania King ousted No. 23 Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia 6-3, 6-7 (5), 7-5.
On the men’s side, sixth-seeded Nikolay Davydenko, No. 9 Fernando Verdasco – who lost an epic five-set semifinal to Nadal here last year – No. 10 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, No. 12 Gael Monfils of France, No. 19 Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland and No. 21 Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic all advanced.
Fabrice Santoro extended his Grand Slam career into a fourth decade, but he lasted only one match – a 7-5, 7-5, 6-3 loss to 14th-seeded Marin Cilic of Croatia.
The 37-year-old Frenchman, who started his Grand Slam career at the 1989 French Open, retired last season but returned to Melbourne Park for a record 70th major.
American Donald Young advanced with a 1-6, 7-5, 6-2, 6-4 win over Christophe Rochus of Belgium.
Richard Gasquet, competing in his third tournament since a ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport allowed him to return to playing, was beaten by 20th-seeded Mikhail Youzhny 6-7 (9), 4-6, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (4), 6-4 in a night match lasting 4 hours, 53 minutes.
A doping test provided by Gasquet last March showed traces of cocaine. A panel of three lawyers from the CAS accepted Gasquet’s claim that he inadvertently consumed cocaine by kissing a woman in a Miami club hours after withdrawing from a tournament with an injury.
The rain that allowed only 26 of the scheduled 64 matches to be completed on the opening day gave way to sunny conditions Tuesday, allowing officials to clear up most of the backlog.