In his first match since dropping the ATP Brisbane International Final to Lleyton Hewitt, Roger Federer let the tennis world know he was ready to challenge for an Australian Open championship by making quick work of Australian James Duckworth.
Federer took the match decisively, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.
More impressive than his opening victory was the fact that he set an Open-era record for most consecutive Grand Slam appearances, as ESPN Stats & Info pointed out:
Federer showed his resiliency by fighting through an uncomfortably hot Rod Laver Arena atmosphere. Tennis.com noted that a handful of players had difficulty dealing with the conditions:
It’s always important to get that initial victory under your belt at a major tournament, but Federer has much grander intentions at the 2014 Australian Open. The four-time champion at this event plans on contending for the title in a loaded field, and he appears primed to do just that if his match with Duckworth was any indication.
Let’s dig into a few reasons why.
Federer was certainly resilient to work through the absolutely brutal weather conditions, but he was far from the only player to compete in dangerously high temperatures.
More importantly for the former champion going forward, he was able to fight through some issues on the court throughout the match. He squandered multiple break-point opportunities in the opening set, which undoubtedly frustrated him. However, he was able to persevere and eventually picked up the important break to take the first set and avoid a tiebreaker.
While he had to work for his initial break, Federer was dominant with the serve from the get-go. The fact that he still found a way to do more than enough to win even though he struggled in one aspect of his game is a positive sign for Federer.
Dominating with the Serve
That dominance with the serve should give Federer fans reason for optimism.
According to Tennis.com, he won 89 percent of his first-serve points and 18-of-22 trips to the net. And he prevented Duckworth from picking up the one break point Federer faced. Although Federer didn’t rack up an incredible amount of service aces, he was in complete control of almost every single point when he was serving.
There is no way that Federer can bring home the Australian Open title given the loaded field if he isn’t on mark with the serve.
If the opening match was any indication, he will be.
Working out the Kinks
There is no such thing as clear sailing to a Grand Slam title, so working out some early kinks against lesser competition can pay off in the long run.
Duckworth continuously tested Federer’s backhand, which is part of the reason Federer couldn’t convert on his early break opportunities. While there were certainly a number of misses from the four-time Australian Open champion, he did get stronger as the match progressed, which would seem to indicate he was gradually becoming accustomed to the new frame.
Of course, one match—against an inexperienced opponent playing just his eighth major contest—is too small a sample to gauge the state of Federer’s game. But his footwork was much sharper than it was in the abysmal first set of his Brisbane final loss to Lleyton Hewitt, he served with authority, went after his second serve, and defended with ambition.
Federer showed enough in his initial victory to suggest that he will be in the Australian Open field for quite some time.