Federer strategy razor-sharp in opening Australian Open win


Melbourne : Second seed Roger Federer crushed Slovak Lukas Lacko 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 as the holder made a majestic start to his Australian Open title defence Monday.

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The Swiss world number two was ruthless against the 97th-ranked outsider, ripping through the opening set in 22 minutes and stealing a 3-0 lead with ease in the second and blasting home as he begins the quest for a fifth Melbourne trophy after winning his fourth in 2010.

But the Swiss needed a slight refinement of strategy to insure victory against his eager opponent.

“I thought I played great,” said the 16-time Grand Slam champion.

“I tried to play offensive from the start and see where it takes me.

“It didn’t work,” said Federer, broken in the second set but quickly getting it back. “So I got back and played a bit more risky and so forth. I was able to keep on pressing, put him on the back foot.

“It was no surprise he started to get into the match at one stage. I thought it was a good match. I don’t think he played too bad himself. I was really happy I chose tactics early on to pressure him. They worked great. At the end, I was happy.”

Frenchman Gael Monfils, the 12th seed, made a recovery from two sets to love down, overhauling Thiemo de Bakker of the Netherlands 6-7 (5-7), 2-6, 7-5, 6-1, 6-1 while American 16th seed Mardy Fish duplicated that feat with his comeback over Romanian Victor Hanescu 2-6, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-3.

Two more Americans lost on opening day, with Pole Lukasz Kubot defeating luckless Sam Querrey 5-7, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1, 8-6 and France’s Adrian Mannarino putting out young hope Ryan Harrison -4, 6-3, 6-4.

Number one Caroline Wozniacki led women’s seeds through, with the top seed beating Gisela Dulko of Argentina 6-3, 6-4. “It’s the first round, it’s always tough,” said the Dane. “I’m really happy to be through, I’m feeling good.”

The winner benefited from 38 unforced errors from her South American opponent ranked 48th who has now lost three of their four meetings.

Wozniacki’s win was her first of the season after exiting in her opening match last week in Sydney. Beside trying to win the event and claim her first major, Wozniacki will also be looking to reach the semi-finals to insure that she retains the top WTA ranking.

French Open winner Francesca Schiavone, seeded sixth, struggled past Arantxa Parra Santonja of Spain 6-7 (4-7), 6-2, 6-4; China’s ninth seed Li Na put out Swede Sofia Arvidsson 6-1, 7-5.

Maria Sharapova began her bid for a second Australian Open title as she overcame 2010 upset demons to post a patchy opening-day victory over Thai veteran Tamarine Tanasugarn 6-1, 6-3.

The three-time Grand Slam winner swept the opening set but trailed 1-3 in the second before finally claiming the win.

The 14th-seeded Sharapova, who claimed the title at Melbourne Park in 2008 but lost in the first round in 2010 after missing 2009 with injury, fired five aces and overcame 10 double-faults and 22 unforced errors in the 78-minute win.

“I was definitely a little bit nervous in the beginning, last year I played first match on center and I lost,”” said the winner. “I didn’t want this to happen again this year.

“I started playing better as the match went on. And, I can only improve in the second one.

The US-based Russian now stands 4-0 over Tanasugarn, who was broken seven times. Sharapova has never lost a set against the Thai, oldest player to win a 2010 WTA title when she did it in Osaka at age 33.