Federer was rarely troubled in beating Lukas Lacko of Slovakia 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 in 84 minutes on the first day at Melbourne Park, barely waiting for ballboys and ballgirls to get back to their positions before serving. The win came at Rod Laver Arena, a stadium named after the player who Federer’s main rival here— Rafael Nadal—is trying to emulate.
Nadal has won three majors in a row—last year’s French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open. So unless Federer can win the final on Jan. 30, it will be the first time since winning Wimbledon in 2003 that the Swiss star hasn’t held at least one major title.
His 24-year-old Spanish rival is trying to make it four in a row and complete his “Rafa Slam.” Laver won all four in 1969, a true calendar year Grand Slam.
“I tried to play offensive from the start and see where it takes me,” Federer said after his easy victory over Lacko. “I was able to keep on pressing, put him on the back foot. I was really happy I chose that tactic early on to pressure him.”
Andy Roddick was rarely under pressure in his 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 win Jan Hajek of the Czech Republic. The eighth-seeded American is trying to end a Grand Slam drought. His one and only major came at the 2003 U.S. Open.
“I had a good off season,” Roddick said. “I feel healthy and strong for the first time in a while. I certainly feel like I’m prepared.”
Two other American men had contrasting fortunes in five-setters—No. 18 Sam Querrey lost to Lukasz Kubot of Poland 5-7, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1, 8-6, while 16th-seeded Mardy Fish came back from two sets down to beat Victor Hanescu of Romania 2-6, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-3.
“I’ve never come back from two sets to love before (and) I’ve had a long career,” Fish said. “I’ve played a lot of five-set matches, it certainly was on my mind.”
No. 23 Nikolay Davydenko, a quarterfinalist last year, lost 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4 to Florian Mayer. Former world junior champion Thiemo De Bakker served for the match at 5-3 in the third against 12th-seeded Gael Monfils but lost 6-7 (5), 2-6, 7-5, 6-2, 6-1.
In other men’s results, sixth-seeded Tomas Berdych, who lost the last Wimbledon final to Nadal, beat Marco Crugnola of Italy 6-4, 6-0, 6-2, and 28th-seeded Richard Gasquet of France defeated Canadian qualifier Frank Dancevic 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.
Caroline Wozniacki started her first major as the No. 1-ranked woman with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Argentina’s Gisela Dulko. It was 20-year-old Wozniacki’s first win of the year, following a straight-sets loss to Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova last week at the Sydney International and exhibition losses to No. 2 Vera Zvonareva and Kim Clijsters in Singapore and Hong Kong.
Wozniacki won six tournaments in 2010, including four of her last six.
Fifth-seeded Venus Williams advanced after beating Sara Errani of Italy 6-3, 6-2. The American star is the only Williams sister in the draw this year after defending champion Serena withdrew because of a foot injury.