Roger Federer returned to the Hopman Cup in 2017, representing Switzerland alongside Belinda Bencic and winning two titles in 2018 and 2019. The latter year marked the last edition of the famous team competition, and Federer did not fancy the ATP Cup at the beginning of 2020, skipping the inaugural ATP event and heading to Melbourne with no matches in his legs.
The Swiss faced Steve Johnson in his first encounter at the 21st Australian Open, and his expectations were relatively low before the season's first clash. Unlike his main rivals Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Daniil Medvedev, Roger took a different path and stayed at home in Dubai.
Fighting for the seventh Australian Open title and 16 years after the first one, Roger admitted he was in a tricky situation ahead of facing the opponent who claimed a Challenger title right before Melbourne.
Roger Federer did not play matches ahead of the 2020 Australian Open.
Still, the Swiss hoped to make the best start and get into the winning rhythm ahead of more formidable opponents while taking one match at a time.
Federer beat Johnson 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 in 81 minutes for a perfect start despite his concerns. Landing 80% of the first serve in, Roger fired ten aces and dropped only 12 points behind the initial shot, fending off a lonely break chance and mounting the pressure on the American who could not deal with it.
Federer blasted 30 winners and 13 unforced errors, keeping everything under control with serve and forehand and mixing his game nicely with 25 net rushings. Pushing strong on the return, Roger won almost half of the points in Johnson's games, delivering five breaks from eight opportunities to hold the strings in his hands and march into the second round.
"I'm playing Steve Johnson, by the way, for those who care. I do not know; I figured that's why I'm in Australia, but that's okay. Look, it's precisely the tricky situation right now, playing somebody who has just played a lot this week and who is ready to go.
He's match-ready, and I'm not. I have to make sure I get out of the gates quickly. The practice has been going well; I had plenty of time to pace myself and do everything I had to do to get ready, and I hope it's enough.
I know it's a super long road to victory; that's why I got to take it one match at a time. My expectations are quite low," Roger Federer said.