Melbourne, Jan 14: Roger Federer may have suggested Novak Djokovic is the Australian Open favourite but the Swiss maestro looked in fine form as he dispatched Denis Istomin in straight sets on Monday (January 14).
Prior to 2019's first grand slam, Federer said he felt Djokovic was the man to beat heading to Melbourne. However, the defending champion looked capable of pushing the world number one all the way as he dismantled Istomin 6-3 6-4 6-4.
Two years ago Istomin caused a major shock when he beat Djokovic in the second round but pulling off something similar against Federer was never on the cards.
The 20-time grand slam champion was at his graceful best to pick apart Istomin's game, his array of crisp groundstrokes and pinpoint serves ensuring a comfortable progression to round two.
If Istomin was to have any chance of causing an upset he needed a fast start, yet that failed to materialise as Federer opened up with two big aces and a crisp forehand winner.
Istomin's first two service games saw Federer apply pressure; he failed to convert his first opportunity but made no mistake in game four to take a 3-1 lead.
A 125mph ace helped consolidate his advantage and three more followed in game seven before another glorious forehand after he had pushed Istomin wide with two powerful cross-court shots.
The opening set was done in 27 minutes but there was no let up for Istomin as Federer settled into his groove, an outrageous backhand from well outside the lines and a whipped forehand putting the Uzbek to the sword.
A weak forehand into the net gave Federer another early break and his march towards a two-set lead was very much on, the world number three rolling out some deft drop shots to keep Istomin guessing.
Federer's ability to stay in rallies set him apart from his opponent and twice in the fifth game of the decider the defence of the Swiss brought errors from Istomin – two volleys dropping into the net from close range.
That ultimately cost Istomin the set, Federer going on to break after a sensational forehand drop shot brought him a third opening.
Federer wasted a chance to finish the match in style with a fourth break of the match but Istomin's exit was confirmed soon enough as the third seed served out with aplomb.
Federer bt Istomin 6-3 6-4 6-4
WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS Federer – 52/30 Istomin – 22/21
ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS Federer – 14/2 Istomin – 4/1
BREAK POINTS WON Federer – 3/9 Istomin – 0/0
FIRST SERVE PERCENTAGE Federer – 56 Istomin – 70
PERCENTAGE OF POINTS WON ON FIRST/SECOND SERVE Federer – 83/67 Istomin – 65/53
TOTAL POINTS Federer – 100 Istomin – 81