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Federer starts pursuit of 14th Grand Slam

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SMOOTH PROGRESS: Sania Mirza had no trouble holding off Marta Domachowska — she won in straight sets — but her opponent in the next round could be a tougher proposition.
SMOOTH PROGRESS: Sania Mirza had no trouble holding off Marta Domachowska — she won in straight sets — but her opponent in the next round could be a tougher proposition.

Sania gets past Domachowska, meets 10th seed Petrova in the second round

MELBOURNE: Roger Federer took the first step toward a record-tying 14th Grand Slam title with a 6-1, 7-6(4), 7-5 victory on Monday over Andreas Seppi at the Australian Open. Federer, seeking to match Pete Sampras’s mark, was at his best on the big points on the opening day as almost all of the favourites 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 runner-up 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.

Djokovic rallies

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 favourite here, and the 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 millimetre 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.

Roddick impressive

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.

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.

Easy win

India’s Sania Mirza survived a late onslaught from World No. 61 Marta Domachowska to set up a second-round clash with Russian 10th seed Nadia Petrova.

The unseeded Indian battled past the Pole 6-1, 6-4 in the first round while Petrova beat Kazakhstan’s Yaroslava Shvedova 6-3, 7-6(3).

“It was a great way to begin after such a long break. I’ve not played a match in almost six months now. I’m just happy to have come through,” she said.

Sania raced away with the first set in just 25 minutes, breaking Domachowska thrice. The Indian led 2-0 in the second set before Domachowska stepped on the gas, winning four games on the trot, breaking Sania in the third and fifth games.

From a comfortable 2-0, Sania found herself trailing 2-4 in no time. But she got her act together and went on to win the next four games to seal the issue, breaking Domachowska in the eighth and 10th games. — Agencies

THE RESULTS

 Men: Singles: First round: 2-Roger Federer bt Andreas Seppi 6-1, 7-6(4), 7-5; 3-Novak Djokovic bt Andrea Stoppini 6-2, 6-3, 7-5; 7-Andy Roddick bt Bjorn Rehnquist 6-0, 6-2, 6-2; 8-Juan Martin del Potro bt Mischa Zverev 6-3, 6-4, 6-2; 10-David Nalbandian bt Marc Gicquel 6-1, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3; 11-David Ferrer bt Denis Gremelmayr 6-1, 6-7(6), 6-1, 6-7(4), 6-4; 15-Stanislas Wawrinka bt Ivo Minar 6-1, 2-6, 7-5, 7-6(9); 16-Robin Soderling bt Robert Kendrick 5-7, 6-4, 6-4, 7-5; 19-Marin Cilic bt Kevin Anderson 6-3, 6-2, 6-7(4), 6-3; 20-Tomas Berdych bt Robby Ginepri 6-4, 6-4, 6-3; 21-Tommy Robredo bt Bobby Reynolds 6-2, 7-5, 6-1.

23-Mardy Fish bt Samuel Groth 6-7(3), 6-4, 7-5, 6-0; 26-Marat Safin bt Ivan Navarro 6-3, 6-3, 6-4; Gilles Muller bt 27-Feliciano Lopez 6-3, 7-6(5), 4-6, 4-6, 16-14; 28-Paul-Henri Mathieu bt Jarkko Nieminen 6-2, 4-1 retd.; 32-Philipp Kohlschreiber bt Sam Querrey 7-6(6), 6-3, 6-2.

Women: Singles: First round: Sania Mirza bt Marta Domachowska 6-1, 6-4; 1-Jelena Jankovic bt Yvonne Meusburger 6-1, 6-3; 3-Dinara Safina bt Alla Kudryavtseva 6-3, 6-4; 5-Ana Ivanovic bt Julia Goerges 7-5, 6-3; 7-Vera Zvonareva bt Magdalena Rybarikova 7-6(2), 6-0; 10-Nadia Petrova bt Yaroslava Shvedova 6-3, 7-6(3); 11-Caroline Wozniacki bt Shahar Peer 6-3, 6-2; 15-Alize Cornet bt Mariya Koryttseva 6-3, 6-4; 16-Marion Bartoli bt Melanie South 6-2, 6-4; 17-Anna Chakvetadze bt Anne Keothavong 6-1, 6-7(4), 6-1.

19-Daniela Hantuchova bt Casey Dellacqua 7-6(11), 6-4; Galina Voskoboeva bt 23-Agnes Szavay 6-3, 3-6, 6-4; Lucie Safarova bt 24-Sybille Bammer 6-3, 6-1; 25-Kaia Kanepi bt Kimiko Date Krumm 6-4, 4-6, 8-6; 26-Ai Sugiyama bt Stephanie Dubois 6-0, 7-6(5); Sara Errani bt 27-Maria Kirilenko 6-0, 6-4; 29-Alisa Kleybanova bt Sofia Arvidsson 7-5, 7-5.

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