Leading contenders Roger Federer and Andy Murray were fast out of the blocks with straight-sets victories in their opening matches at the Australian Open yesterday.
Federer, the record 17-time Grand Slam champion and chasing his fifth Australian title, made light work of his first outing of 2013 with a three-set demolition of Frenchman Benoit Paire.
Third seed Murray was equally impressive in clinically dismantling Dutchman Robin Haase, 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 to progress safely to the second round.
Second seed Federer showed few signs of rustiness in his first match of the year as he demolished the 46th-ranked Paire 6-2, 6-4, 6-1 in 1hr 23min on Rod Laver Arena.
The 31-year-old Swiss maestro gave Paire little respite with six service breaks, while his own serve was rock-solid with no breaks conceded. There was little Paire could do to stop the cascade of winners off the racquet of Federer, who is bidding to become only the second man after Australia’s Roy Emerson to win five Australian Open titles.
Murray was authoritative in his first match in Melbourne, needing just 1hr 37mins to take apart the erratic Haase with eight service breaks and making just 20 unforced errors in the 25 games.
Much has changed in Murray’s life since his career-transforming victory over Novak Djokovic in last year’s US Open final, and he is among the favourites at the year’s opening tournament.
Injury scare for Serena
Serena Williams’ bid for a historic Grand Slam hit an injury hurdle at the Australian Open yesterday. Williams, gunning for the first sweep of all four major titles in the same year since 1988, was on court for only 19 minutes against Edina Gallovits-Hall before going over heavily on her right ankle.
However, after medical treatment and despite hobbling around the court, the 15-time Grand Slam-winner astonishingly won 6-0, 6-0 in just 54 minutes as she belted every winner in sight to keep her running to a minimum.
The 31-year-old said she felt pain and swelling and may need an X-ray, but pledged to soldier on in her quest for a sixth title at the year’s first Grand Slam. Any lasting injury to the hot favourite could throw the women’s draw wide open and may benefit defending champion Victoria Azarenka, who is scheduled to meet Williams in the semi-finals.