Classy Federer silences critics in clinical display
It took Roger Federer barely 60 seconds.
Heralding a sublime serving performance - and a 6-3 6-2 6-2 first-round win over American Steve Johnson - the Swiss sorcerer surged through the opening game.
As a statement, it was double-edged, deflating Johnson and rebuffing doubters.
There was none of the forecast rust.
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The first game became the template for an 81-minute rout - unforced error from Johnson, a Federer ace and two unreturnable missiles.
The dye was cast early, ridiculing theories Federer would be vulnerable without contesting either the ATP Cup or an official lead-up tournament.
With only the benefit of an exhibition in China against Alexander Zverev to build form and confidence, six-time champion Federer again proved why he a legitimate contender.
The numbers around his grooved serve were instructive - 11 aces and winning percentages of more than 80 on both first and second deliveries.
It was death, for Johnson, by suffocation. Federer gave nothing as battle-hardened Johnson was demolished by the sport's silkiest assassin.
At 38, Federer is supposedly in descent.
But, if preparation is a measure, the most decorated male in tennis remains as fervent as ever.
"I trained really hard like I always do," he said.
"I'm just so happy that I didn't have any setbacks and that sets you up really nicely for the season.
"Regardless of how it goes here, you just know you have that block in you. In practice I felt good, and I'm happy it showed on the court as well."
Contesting a record 21st consecutive Australian Open, Federer is participating in a record 79th major.
For all his longevity, the right-hander is concentrating on simplicity.
"Look, I just haven't played proper matches in many, many weeks, and a lot of guys, probably 95 per cent of the guys are coming here with matches," he said.
"So I'm not one of those guys. Now I have one (match). Best of five, too, which is even better.
"So I think for me really the first three rounds are key to get going, to get used to the pressure, stay calm, when to save breakpoint or 30-all points or whatever it may be or just to stay calm if you're down a set and a break or whatever it might be.
"This is sort of the unknown that can be a little bit scary at times.
"But today there was none of that because I broke early each set and was able to get on a roll, play freely after that. And also felt I had margin.
"You know, anything I was doing I felt like I had the game under control.
"That might not be the case in the next round, so I just think I have to be careful. Round-by-round, point-for-point mentality.
"I know other guys that are playing extremely well right now so I think it's just important to stay very calm about things right now."
No-one in the field is calmer right now - with the possible exception of Novak Djokovic.