Federer and Djokovic dazzle in Open debuts
Roger Federer and young rival Novak Djokovic made blistering starts to the Australian Open with eye-catching first-round victories.sports Updated: Jan 15, 2008 18:45 IST
Roger Federer and young rival Novak Djokovic made blistering starts to the Australian Open with eye-catching first-round victories on Tuesday.
Third seed Djokovic, the rising Serbian star, blitzed German Benjamin Becker, the man who sent Andre Agassi into retirement, 6-0, 6-2, 7-6 (7/5) in two hours.
Tournament favourite and top seed Federer came out firing in the night match and was ruthless in disposing of Argentina's Diego Hartfield in just one hour 14 minutes, to dispell any fitness doubts after being laid low by a virus last week.
The Swiss great was in imperious form, reeling off a 6-0, 6-3, 6-0 victory to set up a second round meeting with veteran Frenchman Fabrice Santoro.
"I feel good and happy to be back playing as always," Federer said.
"I was never in doubt of not playing at the Open and I had a week to recover."
Drawcards Marat Safin, Marcos Baghdatis, Lleyton Hewitt and David Nalbandian also hit form in their first matches of the tournament.
Djokovic had plenty to spare in dispatching the 81st-ranked Becker to book a second round match with Italian Simone Bolelli.
Djokovic pushed Federer all the way in the final of last year's US Open and has ambitions of usurping the 12-time Grand Slam champion as world number one.
"It's natural that you feel the pressure. If you don't feel pressure something is wrong with you, but it's a matter of how you deal with the pressure," Djokovic said.
"I'm trying not to think about that too much, about the expectations, about the people saying, 'you got enough quality to win a Grand Slam this year, especially in Australia or US Open, because of the hard courts.'
"It's very flattering when the people talk about me in the positive way, of course. But it puts a lot of pressure (on me)."
Last August he became the first player to beat the world number one and two, Federer and Rafael Nadal, in the same tournament at the ATP Masters series in Montreal since German great Boris Becker in 1994.
Baghdatis safely negotiated his first-round assignment against the 2002 Open champion Sweden's Thomas Johansson, a comfortable 7-6 (7/0), 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 winner.
The Cypriot, then ranked 54, captivated the tennis world at the 2006 Australian Open when he vanquished seeds Andy Roddick, Ivan Ljubicic and Nalbandian before going down to Federer in the final.
He was loved to death by Melbourne's voluble Greek community and the hangover continued up to last year's tournament where he was ambushed in the second round by Frenchman Gael Monfils.
The 22-year-old believes he can now better handle the attention and looks as if his past problems are behind him.
"Last year I had so much pressure, I put so much pressure on myself. I wasn't experienced last year," Baghdatis said.
"This year I'm more experienced than last year. I've spent two whole years in the circuit."
Hewitt toyed with Darcis, winning 6-0, 6-3, 6-0 and will next play Uzbekistan's Denis Istomin, the Asian wildcard recipient.
Santoro, who broke Agassi's record number of Grand Slam appearances, kicked off his 62nd campaign with a 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 win over American John Isner.
American 12th seed James Blake and Nalbandian had straight set victories, as did Safin.
Croatia's 17th seed Ivan Ljubicic had a dismal start to the year with a loss to Dutchman Robin Haase 6-7 (2/7), 6-3, 6-0, 7-6 (7/1).