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Federer banishes painful memories

Roger Federer returned to his favourite stamping ground at Wimbledon on Monday and banished painful memories to reach the second round.

The last time Federer took centre stage at a Grand Slam two weeks ago, he was blown away by Rafael Nadal in the French Open final, winning only four games.

On Monday, the Swiss was back to his stylish best.

The world number one began his pursuit of a modern-era record sixth successive Wimbledon title by dismantling his old doubles partner, Dominik Hrbaty, 6-3 6-2 6-2.

On a good day for gGand Slam champions, Federer was joined in round two by Novak Djokovic, Lleyton Hewitt, Marat Safin, Serena Williams, Ana Ivanovic, Amelie Mauresmo and Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Hewitt, apart from Federer the only other Wimbledon champion in the men’s draw, was made to toil for before he tamed Robin Haase 6-7 6-3 6-3 6-7 6-2.

Hewitt’s victim in the 2002 final, David Nalbandian, was the highest seed to perish. The seventh-seeded Argentine was beaten 6-4 6-2 6-4 by Canada’s Frank Dancevic.

Williams was ousted in the third round at Roland Garros last month and for a while it looked as though her stay at the All England Club might be even shorter as she spluttered through the first set against Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi. In the second set she rediscovered her touch to ease to a 7-5 6-3 win.

French Open champion Ivanovic lived up to her top billing, dispatching Paraguay’s Rossana De Los Rios 6-1 6-2.

Her Serbian countryman, Novak Djokovic, the Australian Open holder, looked to have forgotten his status as the number three seed when he lost the second set, but eventually pulled rank to thwart little-known German Michael Berrer 7-5 2-6 6-3 6-0.

”I’m a perfectionist, so I want everything to be 100%. That second set was not a good picture of my game. But I have to look on the bright side. I got through,” said Djokovic, who set up a second-round showdown with Safin.

Federer and Williams both appeared to have misread the weather forecast when they turned up on the opening day of the grass-court championships.

On a sunny day in London, the Swiss emerged on Centre Court sporting a 1920s-style, gold-trimmed cardigan but it was not long before he discarded his latest fashion statement.

After pulling off the heavy sweater, Federer turned the heat on Hrbaty.

Federer won the first 11 points and it took him all of 79 minutes to chalk up his 60th consecutive win on grass.

”I did feel a little pressure about two minutes before I went on court. I felt like, wow, okay, here we go. Let’s try to get off to a good start. I did, I don’t think I dropped a point in the first few games … that was a great start,” said the 12-time Grand Slam winner. He next faces Robin Soderling.

Ladylike coat
Williams, perhaps scarred by memories of last year’s rain-blighted Wimbledon, stepped on Court One sporting a white raincoat.

”I have a wonderful white coat I can wear on the court and also in New York for those rainy days … it’s ladylike and goes perfect with my personality,” grinned Williams.

The American sixth seed might have been hoping for a rain interruption at 5-5 and break point down in the opening set.

Kanepi, a quarterfinalist in Paris earlier this month, produced a string of stinging groundstrokes to frustrate Williams. But the twice former champion averted danger with a ferocious drive volley and, after roaring her approval, she went on to quell Kanepi’s spirited challenge.

While Williams was happy to have won her opening test in straight sets, Russians Kuznetsova and Anna Chakvetadze had to fight tooth-and-nail to survive.

Fourth seed Kuznetsova, 2004 US Open winner, has often struggled to find her niche on grass and looked to be on her way out when she went down a break in the decider before overcoming the plucky challenge of France’s Mathilde Johansson 6-7 7-5 6-3.

Eighth seed Chakvetadze stormed back from 5-2 down in the third set to beat Canada’s Stephanie Dubois 2-6 6-1 8-6.

Mauresmo, winner here two years ago, beat American Ashley Harkleroad 6-4 6-3 while last year’s runner-up, Marion Bartoli, overwhelmed Germany’s Sabine Lisicki 6-2 6-4.

There were plenty of other seeds who joined Nalbandian at the exit.

Lofty Croatian Ivo Karlovic (18), Switzerland’s Patty Schnyder (12), Russia’s Maria Kirilenko (19), French duo Alize Cornet (17) and Virginie Razzano (27) and Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova (30) were all catching an early flight home. — Reuters

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