MELBOURNE, January 19 – Roger Federer made heavy weather of little-known Andreas Seppi at the Australian Open Monday before joining Jelena Jankovic and Novak Djokovic in the second round.
The Swiss great, who is one Grand Slam shy of Pete Sampras’s record of 14, looked to be cruising after taking the first set 6-1 before his Italian opponent took the second to a tense tie-breaker, only to lose it 7-4.
Federer gritted his teeth to get through the third set 7-5 but it was a less than convincing victory. He was a very tough customer," Federer said. "But I think I played well, I had to as he’s a quality player."
He added that playing night sessions was difficult, but felt his game was where it should be.
"This year my preparations have been much better than last year and I feel I know more where my game is," he said.
Djokovic, the third seed, saw off a late revival by Italian qualifier Andrea Stoppini to win 6-2, 6-3, 7-5.
The Serb, who won his maiden Grand Slam here last year, was relieved to get off to a winning start after an indifferent month, with two defeats already.
He admitted he was feeling the pressure of being the defending champion. Look, there is pressure. But it didn’t affect me today," he said. "I’m still trying to find the rhythm and slowly getting there."
Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray are in action Tuesday.
Earlier, under blazing sun, world number one Jankovic brushed aside Yvonne Meusburger 6-1, 6-3 in impressive fashion as she looks for a maiden Grand Slam title to silence the critics who question her ranking.
A key rival here, Russia’s Dinara Safina, wasted little time in disposing of compatriot Alla Kudryavtseva in straight sets, but French Open champion Ana Ivanovic struggled before downing Germany’s Julia Goerges 7-5, 6-3.
Jankovic said her feet were burning as temperatures soared at Melbourne Park, but managed to keep her cool as she benefited from a brutal off-season training regime.
"It’s exciting to begin this tournament and to start with a win is always nice," she said.
"It was so hot and my feet were really burning," she added. "If I’m going to go very far I have to deal with it."
Ivanovic, the fifth seed who lost last year’s final to Maria Sharapova, failed to dominate against a player ranked 107, reinforcing fears that she may not be ready for another Major title.
"It took me some time to adjust (to the conditions) in the beginning, but I’m very happy that I took opportunities I had," said the 21-year-old, who went off the boil in the second half of last season after winning at Roland Garros.
Other women progressing included Russian seventh seed Vera Zvonareva, tenth seed Nadia Petrova, also from Russia, and French 15th seed Alize Cornet.
The Williams sisters have emerged as the bookmakers’ favourites and they get their tournaments underway on Tuesday, with Serena searching for her fourth Australian crown and Venus her first.
Meanwhile, men’s seventh seed Andy Roddick was running hot as he crushed Swedish qualifier Bjorn Rehnquist 6-0, 6-2, 6-2.
The American, a three-time semi-finalist here, raced through his match and said adding another Grand Slam title to his 2003 US Open was his key motivation.
"(Winning Slams) is the ultimate goal and I’m excited to start here," he said.
Spain’s David Ferrer, the 11th seed, joined him in the next round after surviving a marathon five-setter with journeyman Denis Gremelmayr, outlasting the German in just over four hours.
Argentinian hotshot Juan Martin Del Potro routed Germany’s Mischa Zverev while former runner-up Marcos Baghdatis also progressed.
Keeping the home fans happy, Australia’s Bernard Tomic became the youngest male winner here in history when he beat Italy’s Potito Starace aged just 16 years and 90 days.