Tue, Jan 18, 2005 - Page 19 News List

Federer shows no sign of easing up

AUSTRALIAN OPEN World No. 1 Roger Federer blew past Fabrice Santoro in straight sets on the opening day of the grand slam tournament at Melbourne Park

AP , MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA

Serena Williams during her first round match against Camille Pin of France at the Australian Open in Rod Laver Arena at Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia on Monday. Williams won in straight sets 6-1, 6-1.

PHOTO: AP

No rust, just a finely tuned machine.

Top-ranked Roger Federer quickly dispelled any thoughts that the new year might bring a letdown by the man who dominated men's tennis last year, blasting 54 winners to win his first-round match at the Australian Open on Monday over France's Fabrice Santoro 6-1, 6-1, 6-2.

Andre Agassi, always considered a threat despite his No. 8 seeding, worked his way through stiffness from a hip injury that had raised questions whether he would even be able to begin pursuit of his fifth title at the season-opening Grand Slam.

He started slow before loosening up the hip and tightening up his game to beat German qualifier Dieter Kindlmann 6-4, 6-3, 6-0.

But it didn't take long for the upset bug to bite as No. 5-ranked Carlos Moya lost to fellow Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 7-5, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. Garcia-Lopez, ranked 128th at the end of 2004, broke the former French Open champion's service in the eighth game of the fourth set and served out at love in the next, making the most of a booming forehand and 43 winners.

Looking Sharp

Two Russians -- fourth-seeded Maria Sharapova, the reigning Wimbledon and WTA Champion-ships titlist, and US Open winner Svetlana Kuznetsova, seeded fifth -- advanced to the second round with straight-set victories, as did second-seeded Amelie Mauresmo of France and former No. 1 Serena Williams, who had 27 winners to overcome 22 unforced errors in an erratic but easy victory that saw the fashion designer lose a shoe.

But No. 16 Ai Sugiyama of Japan and No. 24 Mary Pierce, the 1995 winner here, were among four seeded women to lose on the first day.

Santoro's mix of spins and slices gives some players trouble, but he just didn't have enough power -- sometimes serving under 125kph -- to provide much more than a good warmup for Federer. The Swiss star lost only the French Open among the majors later year, when he won 11 tournaments overall and proved that he's always the player to beat. He started this season with another title in Qatar and beat second-ranked Andy Roddick in the final of an exhibition tournament on the weekend.

Federer won all 12 points in the first three games against Santoro and lost just three points as he raced to a 5-0 lead.

No Chance

"I think the start was important for me," said Federer, who extended his winning streak to 22 matches. "That set the tone for the rest of the match. I never really gave him a chance."

Santoro agreed.

"It's as if Roger was saying to me, `Right, that's what I'm offering you today, OK!'" Santoro said. "You get the feeling that in each of his matches he just wants to show straight off who the boss is."

The 34-year-old Agassi could face Federer in the quarterfinals, but didn't seem dismayed by the prospect, since it means he'd have three more victories -- and almost certainly would be completely recovered from a hip tendon injury that forced him to retire during an exhibition match last week against Roddick.

The Breaks

Looking leaner and fitter than last year despite the injury, Agassi broke Kindlmann, ranked only 173rd, three times in 17 chances in the first two sets, but converted all three break-point opportunities in the third to wrap up the last set in 19 minutes.

"It held up all right," Agassi said. "I woke up feeling the best yet since it's happened and with the assurance that I'm not going to sort of pull anything bad, I had the green light to push through anything I might be feeling.

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