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Federer rolls in first round; Wawrinka, Djokovic make winning injury returns

Bill Scott, DPA on

Published in Tennis

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Five-time champion Roger Federer made a running start to his Australian Open title defense on Tuesday, with the Swiss second seed hammering out a 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 over Aljaz Bedene to glide into the second round.

The 36-year-old Swiss executed with ruthless efficiency just over 90 minutes with a dozen aces and 41 winners.

"I'm hoping for this year to go well again," Federer said after leading the ATP with seven titles in 2017. "I'm not sure if I can match 2017, guys are coming back form injury and Rafa (Nadal) is in top shape.

"I can't control it all. Last year is in the vault. This year I hope to stay healthy and give myself a chance."

Former titleholders Stan Wawrinka and Novak Djokovic showed improving form as the 2017 injury victims stormed ahead as well.

Neither of had played since Wimbledon, with Wawrinka undergoing knee surgery and Djokovic spending months fixing a long-term elbow problem.

Ninth seed Wawrinka, who triumphed over Nadal at Melbourne Park in the 2014 final, showed his fighting spirit to hold off Lithuanian Richard Berankis 6-3, 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (7-2).

The 32-year-old winner has never lost an opening match in Melbourne, while Berankis remains winless at the Grand Slam level since the 2016 U.S. Open.

Djokovic, a six-time Melbourne champion, crushed American Donald Young 6-1, 6-2, 6-4.

"It felt great to be back on the court and compete again, obviously you don't know how you're going to start off," Djokovic said.

"In practice I could feel that I'm hitting the ball well. So I was hoping this is going to transfer into the first round of Australian Open."

Fourth-seeded young gun Alexander Zverev from Germany rolled Italy's Thomas Fabbiano 6-1, 7-6 (7-5), 7-5.

Belgian seventh seed David Goffin finished Germany's Matthias Bachinger 6-7 (3-7), 6-3, 6-2, 6-4, while 13th seed Sam Querrey secured one of this week's rare wins for the U.S., beating Feliciano Lopez 6-3, 6-4, 6-2.

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Former top five Canadian player Milos Raonic, another injury statistic, lost to Lucas Lacko 6-7 (5-7), 7-5, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4).

Women's top seed Simona Halep survived an ankle scare, rolling it early in the second set as she beat nervous local teenager Destanee Aiava 7-6 (7-5), 6-1.

Women's grand slam champions Maria Sharapova and Angelique Kerber produced resounding straight-set wins on Tuesday to power into the second round, with Sharapova back on court at Melbourne Park after two years away.

The 2008 champion took just over an hour to beat Germany's Tatjana Maria 6-1, 6-4, ending the contest with an ace.

Kerber, who won the title in 2016 on her way to the No. 1 ranking, beat fellow German Anna-Lena Friedsam 6-0, 6-4 to stake her claim for repeat success at the first major of the season. The victory marked her 10th match in a row since the start of the year.

Sharapova is playing the event for the first time since 2016, when she tested positive for a recently banned prescription medication she said she had taken for a decade under doctor's orders.

Her suspension lasted 15 months after appeal and ended last April when she returned to tennis. It was the 30-year-old's first Grand Slam since returning at last year's U.S. Open, where she reached the fourth round.

Three women's seeds advanced, with one-time top-ranked Karolina Pliskova starting with a 6-3, 6-4 defeat of Paraguay's Veronica Cepede Royg and eighth seed Caroline Garcia of France accounting for Germany's Carina Witthoeft 7-5, 6-3.

British ninth seed Johanna Konta added to US misery when she beat Madison Brengle 6-3, 6-1, adding another victim to the country's dozen players who lost on Monday's opening day.

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