MELBOURNE • A rampaging Roger Federer kicked off his 17th Australian Open campaign with a 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 demolition of Georgian battler Nikoloz Basilashvili yesterday to reach the second round.
The Swiss master put on a masterclass of clean hitting in a flood-lit Rod Laver Arena.
Spared the sweltering conditions of the day session, the men's world No. 3 barely raised a sweat in hammering Basilashvili, sending 31 winners whistling past the 117th-ranked Georgian.
Having battled a flu during his run to the final of the Brisbane International, the 34-year-old, a winner of four Australian Open titles, was grateful to save his energy for more taxing encounters ahead.
"I'm really pleased how I was able to play. Definitely gives me a bit of a lift in confidence, you know, because this year I haven't been able to play properly yet," Federer said.
"I mean, I had some decent matches in Brisbane, but it was all under sort of a cloud knowing that I wasn't 100 per cent. But this was a match where I was able to focus on my game, on tactics."
Federer's only wobble came early, when he surrendered serve in the sixth game of the first set, but he responded by winning six straight games.
The third seed preserved his perfect record of surviving the opening round at the year's first Grand Slam event but faces a stiffer test against 35th-ranked Alexandr Dolgopolov, a hard-hitting Ukrainian with two tour titles.
"I think it's going to be very tough, to be honest," said Federer, who practised with the mercurial 27-year-old in the off-season in Dubai. "He's got the fitness, the power, the speed, tennis IQ, all that."
Japanese star Kei Nishikori saved his energy and escaped the baking heat with a win over Philipp Kohlschreiber in straight sets.
The seventh seed reeled off a 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 win in one hour and 55 minutes on a sun-drenched Hisense Arena.
"It was hot, but luckily I got finished quick," Nishikori said. "I think that's important, especially if you want to play two weeks here."
Nishikori, coached by former French Open champion Michael Chang, will play a close friend, American Austin Krajicek, in the second round.
"It's always tough to play with friends. Actually tougher than maybe top-10 players," he said.
Tomas Berdych and Australia's Nick Kyrgios also went through without significant problems.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE