Australian Open: Confident Roger Federer unruffled by conditions

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SEARING heat forecast to hit Melbourne Park’s second round matches tomorrow holds no fear for Roger Federer, who welcomed the chance to test his 31-year-old body in extreme conditions.

The Swiss maestro played his opening match of the Australian Open in far gentler weather yesterday, trouncing France’s Benoit Paire 6-2, 6-4, 6-1 on a sun-drenched afternoon at Rod Laver Arena.

Former players and pundits have cast doubt on Federer’s ability to handle a marathon in draining heat at Melbourne Park, particularly against the likes of the ultra-fit Novak Djokovic and his fellow 25-year-old Andy Murray.

Federer, who plays Russian former world No 3 Nikolay Davy­denko tomorrow when 39C heat is forecast, said he was not concerned about the weather. “Obviously it has a big effect, but I’m not worried about the heat in any way,” he told reporters. “I have practised and played so many matches over the years in a lot of heat. I almost favour myself over my opponent in the heat.”

Federer also shrugged off doubts about a lack of competition in his preparations for the year’s first grand slam, needing only 83 minutes to despatch 46th-ranked Paire, the Swiss’s first official match since playing the ATP Tour Finals in November.

Little rust was evident as Federer hit 25 sweetly struck winners in a match more akin to a clinical training session. The lessons were lost on Paire, however, who admitted to feeling clueless as to how to fight back. “It’s tough. I don’t know what to do against him,” the Frenchman said. “I don’t know [how to handle] his serving or his returning. For me, I can do nothing.”

In other men’s matches, No 6 seed Juan Martin del Potro, 2008 finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, No 13 Milos Raonic of Canada, who beat Jan Hajek 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, 7-6 (0), No 14 Gilles Simon, No 17 Philipp Kohlschreiber, No 21 Andreas Seppi and No 25 Florian Mayer all advanced.

Local hope Bernard Tomic, who beat Djokovic at the Hopman Cup two weeks ago, defeated Leonardo Mayer of Argentina 6-3, 6-2, 6-3. Tomic has been on a New Year’s high after winning his first ATP tournament on Saturday at the Sydney International.

Frenchman Gael Monfils beat No 18 Alexandr Dolgopolov, of Ukraine, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-3, and Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen ousted No 19 Tommy Haas 7-6 (3), 4-6, 6-3, 4-6, 8-6.

In the women’s draw, former No 1-ranked Caroline Wozniacki won the last six games to beat Sabine Lisicki of Germany 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 to advance along with No 16 Roberta Vinci, No 17 Lucie Safarova and No 29 Sloane Stephens, the American teenager who beat Simona Halep of Romania 6-1, 6-1. No 20 Yanina Wickmayer, of Belgium, beat local hope Jarmila Gajdosova 6-1, 7-5 in the last of the night matches.

Former US Open and French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova continued her comeback from the knee injury that kept her out of the US Open, ending her run of 40 consecutive majors. Also, No 14 Maria Kirilenko had a 6-4, 6-2 win over American Vania King, and China’s Peng Shuai beat Canada’s Rebecca Marino 6-3, 6-0.

Two seeded players lost in the evening session. American Julie Hampton beat No 31 Urszula Radwanska, of Poland, 6-2, 6-4, while Ukrainian qualifier Lesia Tsurenko defeated No 24 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, of Russia, 7-5, 3-6, 7-5. Venus Williams was due in action this morning against Alize Cornet of France, while Djokovic returns to play his second-round match against American Ryan Harrison.