MELBOURNE, Australia
Roger Federer swatted aside Steve Johnson to race into the Australian Open
second round Monday as he kickstarted his bid for a 21st Grand Slam title in
immaculate style.

The ageless Swiss great, 38, said ahead of the tournament
that he had low expectations at the year’s opening Grand Slam after missing the
warm-up ATP Cup to spend more time with his family.

It left him short of match practice, but it didn’t show on
Rod Laver Arena against the American in his 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 demolition.

“I felt really good. I trained really hard, like I
always do, and happy I did not have any (injury) setbacks (in the
off-season),” said Federer.

“I am happy, I played well in practice and happy it
showed on the court as well.”

The crowd favourite knew he needed to get out of the blocks
fast against the world number 75 and that’s what he did, racing to a 4-1 lead
in the opening set before a 10-minute interruption for the roof to be shut due
to rain.

Federer returned and wrapped up the set in just 27 minutes.

Naomi Osaka began her Australian Open title defence in
emphatic fashion, breaking the net with a blockbuster serve as she dismantled
unseeded Czech Marie Bouzkova on Monday.

The 22-year-old Japanese, the world’s second highest-paid
female athlete after Serena Williams, powered through 6-2, 6-4 in 80 minutes.

The two-time Grand Slam champion, one of the prime threats
to Williams’s bid to win a record-equalling 24th major, will play China’s Zheng
Saisai in round two.

Thrid seed Osaka saw her victory march held up for a few
minutes early in the second set after a fizzing serve clocked at 183 kilometres
per hour (114 miles per hour) damaged a net tether at the 15,000-capacity Rod
Laver Arena.

“Broke the net today,” Osaka tweeted afterwards to
her more than 500,000 followers, along with a video of three maintenance
personnel rushing onto court to repair the broken fixture.

Osaka, who endured a turbulent 2019 after winning in
Melbourne 12 months ago, was relieved to overcome the 59th-ranked Bouzkova
safely.

“It was really tough for me trying to control my
nerves,” she said. “It’s tough to play someone you’ve never played
before in the first round of a Grand Slam. I hope I’m still standing here at
the end of this week.”

Osaka has spoken openly about her struggles with negative
headlines and the weight of expectation, but was in relaxed mood throughout.

It was partly because her Haitian father Leonard Francois,
who was her coach for back-to-back titles in the autumn in Japan and China, was
in her player’s box for the first time at a Grand Slam.

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