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Millennium Post

Favourites ride on easy ground

Roger Federer raced to a consummate straight-sets win at the Australian Open on Tuesday, showing few signs of rustiness in his first match of the year.

The record 17-time Grand Slam champion, who went into the year’s first major without a lead-up tournament, demolished Frenchman Benoit 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 the 46th-ranked Paire could do to stop the cascade of winners off the racquet of Federer, who made a smooth start to his quest for a fifth Australian Open crown.

Federer is bidding to become only the second man after Australia’s Roy Emerson to win five Australian Open titles since his first Melbourne triumph in 2004.

Andy Murray brushed aside Dutchman Robin Haase in a clinical display to progress smoothly to the second round of the Australian Open on Tuesday.

The third-seeded Scot had few problems with the 53rd-ranked Haase, winning 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 in 1hr 37min in warming temperatures on Rod Laver Arena.

Murray, who broke through for his first Grand Slam title at last year’s US Open, was always in charge of his opening match breaking Haase’s service eight times in a dominant display.

‘It was a good start and it was nice to win in straight sets, it was the hottest day of the tournament so far,’ Murray said at courtside.

‘It took a little while to get used to that and the court was playing much quicker because of it.’

World number three Serena Williams came through a big injury scare when she rolled her right ankle before reaching the Australian Open’s second round on Tuesday.

The 15-time Grand Slam winner landed heavily and went to ground in the first set before gingerly going through the motions to beat hapless Romanian Edina Gallovits-Hall 6-0, 6-0.

Williams was comfortably winning 4-0 when she reached for a forehand in the fifth game and landed heavily, with her ankle twisting. The 31-year-old tumbled over with her hands over her face.

A trainer rushed on court and she was helped to her chair for a medical timeout where her strapping was replaced.

She returned to close out the set but was clearly in pain and her movement was affected as she received more treatment at the changeovers.

Despite the injury, the imposing Williams was far too good for Gallovits-Hall who failed to take advantage of anything to go for.


AZARENKA BATTLES TO WIN

World number one Victoria Azarenka kicked off her Australian Open title defence with a hard-fought straight sets win against Romania’s Monica Niculescu on Tuesday. The Belarusian top seed, who beat Maria Sharapova in the final last year, is defending a Grand Slam title for the first time and overcame some second set defiance from Niculescu to ease through 6-1, 6-4 minutes. The 23-year-old won six WTA titles in 2012 but she was forced to withdrew from this month’s Brisbane International with an infected big toe, hampering her Grand Slam build-up, but she showed little effect on Rod Laver Arena. 
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