Thirteen years after their first meeting on the Tour here in Melbourne, Roger Federer and Denis Istomin got the opportunity to play against each other for the seventh time, with the two-time defending champion delivering a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 win to secure the place in the second round.
Starting the record-breaking 20th Australian Open campaign, the world no. 3 secured his 95th win at Melbourne Park and 340th at Majors overall during his illustrious career, playing well on both serve and return to leave Istomin behind and open the title defense in style.
Federer fired 14 aces and he never faced a break point, imposing his shots and hitting from the comfort zone that allowed him to take the ball early and dictate the pace in the rallies. On the other hand, he won almost 40% of the return points, earning one break in each set to rule the scoreboard and finish the job in under two hours.
The Swiss hit the zone right from the start, delivering a forehand down the line winner and an ace for a hold at love in the first game, missing a break point in game two but finding the way to create a lead after a break of serve in game four when Denis sprayed a forehand error.
Both players held with ease in the rest of the set and Roger clinched it with a forehand down the line winner in game nine for a 6-3 after 27 minutes. Carrying the momentum to set number two as well, Federer had some problems on serve but he stayed away from break points, taming his shots nicely and breaking Istomin in game three when the Uzbek netted an easy forehand.
There was nothing that could disturb Roger, blasting four winners at 5-4 to complete the set and move closer to the finish line after just 69 minutes. Denis saved a break point in a lengthy opening game of the third set although he couldn't do the same while serving at 2-2, allowing Roger to grab a break with a volley winner at the net and move 4-2 up thanks to yet another comfortable hold in the game that followed.
Another unreturned serve pushed Federer 5-3 up and he squandered a match point in the next game, having to serve for the win in game ten. As in the rest of the match, that proved to be no problem at all, landing four winners to bring the match home and book the place in the second round. First round result:
Roger Federer (SUI) vs Denis Istomin (UZB) 6-3 6-4 6-4