Facebook Twitter

Federer opens with victory

Top seed has easy first-round match at Australian Open

SHARE Federer opens with victory
Rodger Federer hits a return to Denis Istomin during the first round of the Australian Open Tuesday. Federer won 6-2, 6-3, 6-2.

Rodger Federer hits a return to Denis Istomin during the first round of the Australian Open Tuesday. Federer won 6-2, 6-3, 6-2.

Associated Press

MELBOURNE, Australia — Top-ranked Roger Federer dispatched wild card entry Denis Istomin in the first round of the Australian Open on Tuesday, cruising to a 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 victory.

Federer was broken once, when he was serving for the second set, and faced only three break points in the 83-minute match.

The overwhelming favorite for the title, Federer lost only one point on his serve in the second set until he made three uncharacteristically erratic errors to give Istomin the break in the second-to-last game.

Federer drew a near-capacity crowd to Rod Laver Arena for the first match of the day. While the crowd was cheering for Istomin to mount a comeback and extend the match, Federer finished it off with a service winner, then basked in a standing ovation.

"It's never really easy, first round in a Grand Slam," said Federer, who met Istomin for the first time in the locker room before the match. "As long as I win, I'm happy — it was a good start." Istomin, a 19-year-old player from Uzbekistan, is ranked 195th. Playing in his first top-tier event, he had some highlights.

He twice aced Federer in his opening service game and in the sixth game of the second set. He had eight aces overall, against only two for Federer.

"I played good today, but had too many unforced errors," said Istomin, who had 39 unforced errors. "It was very good for my career ... he gave me seven games."

It was Federer's second tour event since losing the final of the season-ending Masters Cup final to David Nalbandian at Shanghai, where he hobbled in on crutches because of an injured right ankle.

He defended his title at Qatar two weeks ago and played in an exhibition tournament at Kooyong last week.

Former No. 2-ranked Tommy Haas, who upset Federer in the Kooyong exhibition last week, had a 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 win over 14th-seeded Richard Gasquet. Gasquet was one of only four players to beat Federer in 2005.

French women Mary Pierce and Amelie Mauresmo each advanced with first-round victories.

Three-time Australian Open champion Martina Hingis was to resume her comeback from retirement against Russia's Vera Zvonareva in a night match.

Seventh-seeded Patty Schnyder beat Eleni Daniilidou of Greece 6-4, 6-3 and No. 12 Anastasia Myskina, the 2004 French Open champion, beat Ukraine's Yuliana Fedak 7-6 (6), 6-1.

Third-seeded Lleyton Hewitt opened later Tuesday against Robin Vik of the Czech Republic.

Losing finalist here last year, Hewitt shapes as a semifinal rival for Federer.

Federer finished 81-4 in 2005, winning 11 titles including Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.

The 24-year-old Swiss star lost to the eventual champions at the Australian and French, but neither is in the draw at Melbourne Park.

Marat Safin didn't return to defend his title here because of a chronic knee problem and second-ranked Rafael Nadal, the French Open champion, is out with an injured foot.

Federer next plays the winner of Tuesday's late match between South Korea's Lee Hyung-taik and Germany's Florian Mayer.

The tournament started with all of the women's top 10 playing for only the second time in the Open era. The perfect 10 lasted only until the first afternoon.

Wimbledon champion Venus Williams, seeded 10th, sprayed 65 unforced errors Monday in her 2-6, 6-0, 9-7 first-round loss to Bulgaria's Tszvetana Pironkova.

Defending champion Serena Williams got a bit of a scare in the second set before dispatching 52nd-ranked Li Na of China 6-3, 6-7 (1), 6-2.

Serena, on a 15-match winning streak at Melbourne Park after winning the title in 2003 and '05 and skipping the '04 tournament, will play Camille Pin in the next round.

Pironkova, an 18-year-old Bulgarian ranked No. 94 entering the tournament, will play American Laura Granville.

Top-ranked Lindsay Davenport, 2004 Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova and French Open winner Justine Henin-Hardenne were among the 10 seeded women to advance Monday. Six were ousted, including No. 9 Elena Dementieva in addition to No. 10 Venus Williams.

Among the men, No. 2-seeded Andy Roddick, his big serve producing only seven aces, downed Michael Lammer of Switzerland 6-4, 6-2, 6-2.

Masters Cup champion Nalbandian overcame Thai qualifier Danai Udomchoke 6-2, 6-2, 1-6, 6-7 (4), 6-1.

Other men advancing were No. 7 Ivan Ljubicic, No. 8 Gaston Gaudio, No. 11 David Ferrer, No. 13 Robby Ginepri, No. 17 Radek Stepanek, No. 18 Mario Ancic and No. 20 James Blake. Taylor Dent, Carlos Moya and Tim Henman lost.