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Roger Federer

Roger Federer doesn't sweat. Everybody knows that. Even in 41-degree Celsius (105 Fahrenheit) heat.

With the habitual slogans proclaiming "quiet, genius at work," Federer strolled his way around Rod Laver Arena, shaking off James Duckworth's poking and prodding to advance to the second round with minimal fuss, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.

Duckworth plays in an abrupt, aggravated fashion, his slightly barrelled chest and uncompromising attitude reminiscent of that other Australian, Lleyton Hewitt. Sadly for Duckworth, a wild card here in Melbourne, at just 21, he doesn't have Hewitt's go-the-extra-mile level. And although he made life tricky for Federer at times, he never truly looked like crumpling up Federer's immaculate appearance. An hour and 46 minutes after the umpire said play, Federer's white shirt with a grey and red trim was as fresh as if he had just removed it from its packet, whereas Duckworth's bright blue was wet through.

"Depending on where you come from it has a bigger effect on you, this type of heat, than maybe humid heat.  So it's very personal, and it can become just a very mental thing, you know, and you just can't accept that it's hot," Federer said, revealing that he was pleased with how he handled the conditions.

"If you've trained hard enough your entire life or the last few weeks and you believe you can do it and come through it, there's no reason," he continued.

"If you can't deal with it, you throw in the towel.  But that's not for me."

That said, it was not the most spectacular of performances from the former champion. Four of 17 break points, 58 percent first serves, 25 percent first serve returns, multiple shanks - all bound for improvement. But first round Grand Slam matches do not need to be spectacular. Especially in 105 degrees, which, ironically, is the sum total of the temperature today in Federer's hometown of Basel (41), and training base of Dubai (64).

"You realize it's actually better to win the match than win a few "wow" shots, so you go back to basics," Federer said.

With Stefan Edberg watching from behind black glasses, Federer applied the pressure on Duckworth immediately, fashioning two break points to start. The Australian, who has never been ranked higher than No.132 in the world, dug his heels in. They tangoed for a while, each player taking as much time in the strips of shade at the back of Rod Laver Arena as possible, before Federer ended a 12-shot rally with an overhead winner at 2-2.

Three more break points came his way at 4-2, but Duckworth clung on, Federer serving out the set 6-4 in 39 minutes. The second set proceeded similarly, albeit three minutes quicker, Federer breaking at 3-3, and saving a break point at 4-3. The third was a Concorde by comparison, Duckworth still puffing and strutting, but with less success. Dropping serve to the Swiss in the first game, and again in the fourth, the match was packaged and wrapped half an hour later.

"Conditions were playing pretty quick, so we didn't have much rhythm, much rallies.  I kept missing some opportunities, which made it harder on me, because I think I could have been in a more comfortable lead early," Federer said. "I think he did also well to stay in the match because and in most of the games, because he did serve well when he needed to."

The eagle-eyed will have noticed that Federer didn't stop to put on his watch, or linger for autographs afterwards, suggesting that, yes, he was a little hot, even if he didn't look it. But there is nothing in that to infer  that he was unhappy with his performance.

"It was okay.  It was not much rhythm out there.  It was a matter of getting the job done and not getting broken," Federer said. "So it was a solid match from start to finish, yeah.  Could have maybe won a few more break points here and there, but who cares now?"

In fact, he revealed that he has set about this Grand Slam tournament differently, the US Open and Wimbledon put behind him.

"I feel good, and it's about ‑‑ for me, I want to show ‑‑ prove to myself that I can bring it every match.  I'm really excited.  It's a tough draw, but I'm open for it and I'm ready to go," Federer said.

His next opponent, Blaz Kavcic, will no doubt seek to do what Duckworth did. Put the ball high to the backhand, target the shank and unforced error. But Federer, with quiet resolve, is ready for it. Dinner with Edberg, practice tomorrow, match the next day. On we go.

Friday, 19 December 2014
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