That’s the day’s action taken care of on RLA, so it’s over now to Margaret Court Arena for Venus Williams v Coco Gauff, one of the most intriguing match-ups of the round.
Rain update: Play is still suspended on all outside courts. A further decision on recommencement of play will be made not before 17:00 AEDT.
“I’m very happy” Federer tells Jim Courier, with a smile that indicates he’s aware of the understatement. He then explains how good a pre-season he’s had, one with no interruptions, meaning he’s fit and firing for the start of the season.
Federer beats Johnson (6-3 6-2 6-2)
Third set: Federer* 6-3 6-2 6-2 Johnson (*denotes server): One hour and 22 minutes is all it takes for Roger Federer to stamp his authority on the Australian Open. That was a vintage display. Even by his high standards that was awesome.
Third set: Federer 6-3 6-2 5-2 Johnson* (*denotes server): Johnson rages against the dying of the light with a hold to love.
Third set: Federer* 6-3 6-2 5-1 Johnson (*denotes server): Great hustle from Johnson to put Federer under pressure at 15-30. But then the GOAT needs only four more swings of his racket to seal the game. The end is nigh.
Third set: Federer 6-3 6-2 4-1 Johnson* (*denotes server): A game full of creative shots and interesting points reaches deuce. Both men have all the shots in the kit-bag and both are prepared to use them. It’s refreshing to see a match like this as opposed to the remorseless power-hitting from the baseline we’re so often accustomed to.
Federer forces a break point at deuce that Johnson saves. He earns another soon after when Johnson slices wide, and he converts when the American finds the net without provocation. Another break. Federer coasting to the second round.
Third set: Federer* 6-3 6-2 3-1 Johnson (*denotes server): Another quick hold for the champ. RLA is now full to the brim for the Federer show after Osaka and Williams played to half-full arenas.
Third set: Federer 6-3 6-2 2-1 Johnson* (*denotes server): “He’s so comfortable this is turning into a tryout session” explains Jim Courier about Federer standing way behind the baseline to return Johnson’s serve. It doesn’t work though and the American turns 15-30 to 40-30.
An errant backhand slice provokes deuce where Federer comes out on top of a lovely rally full of different angles and spins. The Swiss then has the game at his mercy but he nets a backhand with the open court begging.
Johnson then converts the second deuce after some unfamiliar off-kilter shots from his opponent.
Third set: Federer* 6-3 6-2 2-0 Johnson (*denotes server): I am running out of ways to describe Federer’s brilliance today. Another service game races by with some shots of audacious brilliance. He is timing the ball so purely on forehand and backhand. It’s like watching a jazz drummer go through his drills. Magnificent.
Third set: Federer 6-3 6-2 1-0 Johnson* (*denotes server): Another set begins with Federer climbing all over Johnson’s serve and earning two break points, the second of which the American sends wide. This has been one-way traffic since the opening point.
Only two other matches taking place right now because of the rain. Grigor Dimitrov (18) has just started on Melbourne Arena, while Petra Kvitova (7) is cruising a set to the good on Margaret Court Arena.
Second set: Federer* 6-3 6-2 Johnson (*denotes server): A clean return winner from Johnson gives the American a rare foothold in a Federer service game. He then scraps to 15-30 but curses a poor backhand that ricochets off the frame of his racquet. Federer then takes control, powering to 40-30 at the net and then pummelling Johnson’s return back where it came from – with interest – to seal the second set. Just 50 minutes played and the Fed Express is motoring at full speed.
The latest update on the outside courts is that play will not resume before 4pm.
Second set: Federer 6-3 5-2 Johnson* (*denotes server): Johnson’s best service game for some time. He holds to love, ending with an ace on the armpit of the T.
Second set: Federer* 6-3 5-1 Johnson (*denotes server): A spiffing volley wrong-foots Federer at the net but that’s as good as it gets for Johnson as the third seed races to another hold of extraordinarily high quality. Federer is averaging under 90 seconds per service game. He’s won 33 of 39 points on his own serve. Sensational.
Second set: Federer 6-3 4-1 Johnson* (*denotes server): Johnson finally manages to slow the match down, interrupt Federer’s rhythm and hold his serve. He has to play his best tennis to scrap to 30-30 though, at which point Federer fluffs a couple of lines and allows Johnson to dodge a second set bagel.
Second set: Federer* 6-3 4-0 Johnson (*denotes server): Federer holds to love. Quelle suprise?
Second set: Federer 6-3 3-0 Johnson* (*denotes server): This is liquid tennis from Federer. Another break arrives in effortless fashion. He’s moving like a firefly, dancing with exceptional lightness of touch from spot to spot. It must be unnerving for Johnson; what does he do?
Second set: Federer* 6-3 2-0 Johnson (*denotes server): I just want to make a series of swoon noises instead of typing actual words. A backhand down the line, over the net post, is gorgeous, then an in-to-out backhand winner deserves its own ESPN 30for30. Sublime, punishing, clutch, aesthetically pleasing, top-level sport. Just enjoy it.
Second set: Federer 6-3 1-0 Johnson* (*denotes server): Federer is mixing flowing attacking tennis on his own serve with precise error-inducing tennis on Johnson’s. That strategy earns Federer a game to love in a performance that resembled a warm-up for him and the most stress-inducing nightmare for his opponent.
First set: Federer* 6-3 Johnson (*denotes server): The point of the match so far sees Federer ending a superb rally with a low stretching backhand volley at the net. The rest of the game is a cakewalk and the living legend takes the opening set in just 27 minutes.
First set: Federer 5-3 Johnson* (*denotes server): Johnson holds with the help of a couple of Federer forehand errors.
In case you were wondering about the weather…
First set: Federer* 5-2 Johnson (*denotes server): Federer means business whether it’s indoors or in the open air. There’s an economy of movement, but much of that is forward, coming in and playing plenty of serve-volley tennis. Perhaps Federer is paying tribute to his idol Rod Laver?
First set: Federer 4-2 Johnson* (*denotes server): The roof has now weather-sealed RLA and after the resumption Johnson holds serve securely.
Outside the three stadium courts we could be off for some time. The radar indicates a series of slow moving storm cells that promise plenty of rain. But hey, this is Melbourne, so who knows?
Play suspended (rain)
Finally, much later than expected, the rain has arrived. The players head into the locker room while the roof is closed on Rod Laver Arena. Play will doubtless be suspended on the outside courts.
First set: Federer* 4-1 Johnson (*denotes server): Majestic hold to love, Federer serving supremely, volleying crisply, moving nimbly, and firing groundstrokes with plenty of fizz.
Dan Evans (30) has dodged a bullet.
First set: Federer 3-1 Johnson* (*denotes server): The Johnson serve is under all sorts of pressure from Federer and it’s an almighty scrap to get to deuce. Thereafter the American pushes through for his first game of the match.
The first major shock of the tournament – Denis Shapovalov (13) is gone! A possible banana skin in Roger Federer’s section of the draw has been avoided.
First set: Federer* 3-0 Johnson (*denotes server): Federer faces a bit of pressure at 15-30 but aces his way out of it. Johnson comes back though, earning a break point, but Federer escapes back to deuce.
After barely missing a first serve in two games Federer suddenly looks short of rhythm – but it doesn’t last long. Johnson butchers a makable second serve before a thundering first serve closes the brief opportunity to break.
First set: Federer 2-0 Johnson* (*denotes server): Federer is looking sharp early on and streaks to 0-40 before Johnson finally gets a point on the board. It counts for little though as a lovely rally goes Federer’s way, one featuring plenty of Johnson’s trademark backhand slice but ending with the champion’s trademark backhand down the line.
First set: Federer* 1-0 Johnson (*denotes server): Federer sprints through the opening game to love looking every inch the champion he is.
Federer: 38-years-old, seeded three, six-time former champion and 20-time grand slam champion and 103-time title winner during an unrivalled career.
He leads the head-to-head 2-0 with Steve Johnson, the 30-year-old American ranked 75 in the world.
Also, it remains remarkable that play is still on considering the Melbourne weather. The eastern suburbs are getting a soaking but the CBD remains mercifully dry.
Next up on centre court, Roger Federer. The Swiss maestro will break the record for the most appearances in the main draw of the Australian Open when he takes on American Steve Johnson in the last scheduled match of the day session at Rod Laver Arena.
That was convincing from the seven-time champion. The serve and power game were both on point, and the movement was as fluid as it’s looked since Williams returned to the circuit as a mother. The first set was a walkover but she was challenged in the second and did what was needed on the pressure points.
“It’s good to be back,” she says post-match, beaming about her performance and reflecting on securing her first title as a mother recently in Auckland. “I try to tell her [daughter Olympia] I’m a somebody, you know,” she says, smiling broadly, at ease with her surroundings.
Actual tennis chat ends before we learn anything with Serena executing a well-practiced dismount from an interview by pretending to ramble then professing to worrying about rambling, before quickly legging it.
Williams beats Potapova (6-0 6-3)
Second set: Williams* 6-0 6-3 Potapova (*denotes server): A couple of aces, total composure, and Serena Williams is through to the second round.
Second set: Williams 6-0 5-3 Potapova* (*denotes server): Potapova gets through her serving preparation in quicktime, giving her game an element of hustle about it. She exchanges points with Williams until 30-30 when she dumps an error into the net. A rally starts to form at break point but Serena then adds some extra sauce to a forehand that catches Potapova by surprise. Williams to serve for the match.
There is rain pouring across swathes of Melbourne now, but the Olympic Park precinct remains dry – for now. Surely it can’t be long before the outside courts are halted and the roofs cover the stadium courts.
Second set: Williams* 6-0 4-3 Potapova (*denotes server): At 0-15 Serena looks to be facing a nervy service game but in the blink of an eye it’s 40-15. Poptapova will not lie down though and she engineers a superb point, ending with a powerful angled forehand. Does Williams panic? Nope, another ace secures the hold.
Second set: Williams 6-0 3-3 Potapova* (*denotes server): Williams is trying her best to pressurise the Potapova serve but the Russian is resolute, digging in at 30-30 then nailing an ace and an unreturnable scorcher to the Williams backhand. She is a fighter the teenager.
Second set: Williams* 6-0 3-2 Potapova (*denotes server): There are fewer cheap points on offer now for Williams who is forced to work hard to share the opening two points of the game. An ace is then undermined by a wide forehand crosscourt, so what does Serena do? Another ace – 188 kph! Potapova is matching her stroke for stroke though and forces deuce by constantly hitting behind her opponent, keeping her on the defensive.
For the second game in a row Serena faces a break point, this time with an unforced error, but she saves it despite plenty of hustle from Potapova. “Come on!” Williams bellows, unusually amped for what looks such a routine opening round contest. That routine resuming with a couple of powerful serves allowing an unexpectedly tough hold.
Second set: Williams 6-0 2-2 Potapova* (*denotes server): Potapova is working into the contest now. She loses the opening point but makes Serena earn it, then prevails in a long rally full of intent for 15-15. An ace puts her in front but one of the rallies of the match draws Williams level again. These rallies are now much more evenly balanced than in the opening set with Potapova driving through her shots and going for the lines. Again Serena comes out on top in a longish exchange to engineer a break point, which he takes when Potapova goes long mid-rally.
The immediate break back, the hallmark of a champion.
Second set: Williams* 6-0 1-2 Potapova (*denotes server): A rare element of pressure on the Serena serve! Williams cruises to 40-15 but Potapova puts two strong points together the first after moving Serena around the court, the second with a clean winner down the line.
The eighth seed dumps an unforced error into the net on deuce to allow her first break point of the match. What happened next? An ace, of course.
But Potapova digs in and returns a couple of groundstrokes Williams expects to be winners and the veteran blinks first. The second break point? Double fault! Potapova breaks and sneaks ahead in this second set.