Roger Federer took the first step toward his record-tying 14th Grand Slam title with a 6-1, 7-6 (4), 7-5 victory Monday over Andreas Seppi at the Australian Open.
Federer, seeking to match Pete Sampras' mark, was at his best on the big points on the opening day as almost all of the favorites avoided upsets. But it rarely was easy for even the top players in the year's first Grand Slam.
"He is a very tough customer, he played really well," Federer said of the 35th-ranked Seppi. "I think I played well, too. I had to."
Serbia's Ana Ivanovic, the women's runnerup here last year, had 10 mistakes just in the first five games but managed to advance with a 7-5, 6-3 victory over 107th-ranked Julia Goerges, who was even more erratic.
Top-seeded Jelena Jankovic, short on match practice after illness hampered preparations for her pursuit of a first Grand Slam title, had 27 winners to just four for No. 104 Yvonne Meusburger while winning 6-1, 6-3.
The other Serbian star, defending men's champion Novak Djokovic, started strong then had to rally from service breaks in the last two sets — he was down 4-0 in the third — to oust Andrea Stoppini 6-2, 6-3, 7-5.
Second-ranked Federer is a huge fan favorite here, and Rod Laver Arena was still packed when he went on court at 10 p.m. under perfect conditions. Camera flashes went off every time he hit a shot.
"Whose house? Roger's house!" one fan roared.
Federer, who has won three titles here, was clearly focused on proving that fan right.
The Swiss star fended off all 10 of Seppi's break points. He had one stretch in the first set that had the fans gasping and left Seppi with a look that said: "What can I do?"
Federer ran off the last five games of the set, dropping only six points, and the ones that Seppi did win usually took at least two good shots. Twice on one point, Seppi sent up lobs that landed on the line. Federer backtracked to get the first back with a quick flick of the wrist, then got to the second, spun around and whipped a wicked forehand winner.
Things got tighter the rest of the way.
Seppi had a set point as Federer served at 5-6, 30-40 but missed the sideline with a backhand that the replay system showed was maybe a millimeter out. Federer went on to hold, then ran away from a 3-3 tie in the tiebreaker.
Another tiebreaker appeared to be looming in the final set.
Seppi fended off three match points while serving at 5-6. Federer set up another with a backhand volley winner, and Seppi sent a forehand long to end the match in 2 hours and 21 minutes.
Ivanovic lost the 2008 Australian final to Maria Sharapova, who is out with an injured shoulder, then won the French Open to take the top ranking midway through the year.
She had her share of glitches while facing Goerges for the first time, with the midday sun playing havoc with every serve toss at one end of the court. It didn't help that the German player was going for winners.
"I don't expect myself to step on the court and play perfect tennis from very first moment," said Ivanovic, who was ousted in the third round at Wimbledon and in the second at the U.S. Open. "You just want to give yourself the best possible chance and give time to work yourself into the tournament."
Jankovic had more trouble with the broiling daytime sun — temperatures reached 97 F. (36 C.) — than Meusburger. The surface was so hot that Jankovic iced the soles of her shoes during changeovers.
"My feet were burning," said Jankovic, who didn't know what to expect after her recent illness-enforced layoff.
Seventh-seeded Andy Roddick was happy to be first up in Rod Laver Arena. He sped off in less than two hours, taking advantage of 31-year-old Swedish qualifier Bjorn Rehnquist, whose style played right into the seventh-seeded American's strengths. Roddick, looking sharp and trim, committed just 10 unforced errors in the 6-0, 6-2, 6-2 win.
Roddick's friend and former housemate Mardy Fish had a 6-7 (3), 6-4, 7-5, 6-0 win over local wild-card entry Samuel Groth, but six other American men made first-round exits.
Czech Republic's Tomas Berdych, seeded 20th, beat Robby Ginepri, Dominik Hrbaty downed John Isner, Robert Kendrick lost to No. 16 Robin Soderling of Sweden, Bobby Reynolds was ousted by No. 21 Tommy Robredo of Spain, and Taylor Dent fell to fellow American Amer Delic in five sets. Sam Querry lost in straight sets to Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany.
Other men advancing were No. 8 Juan Martin del Potro and No. 10 David Nalbandian of Argentina, No. 11 David Ferrer of Spain, No. 15 Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland, 2005 champion Marat Safin, 2006 finalist Marcos Baghdatis and 16-year-old Australian Bernard Tomic.
Gilles Muller of Luxembourg overcame No. 27 Feliciano Lopez of Spain 6-3, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 4-6, 16-14 in a 4-hour, 23-minute match.
Winners on the women's side included No. 3 Dinara Safina and No. 7 Vera Zvonareva of Russia, No. 15 Alize Cornet of France, No. 16 Marion Bartoli and No. 19 Daniela Hantuchova.
Former fourth-ranked Kimiko Date Krumm, who last reached the main draw of a major since 1996, was beaten 6-4, 4-6, 8-6 by 25th-seeded Kaia Kanepi of Estonia. The 38-year-old Japanese player, who came out of retirement last year, had won three matches in qualifying.
Top-ranked Rafael Nadal has his first match on Tuesday, when both Serena and Venus Williams also will be in action.Reuse content