Federer cruises past first-round opponent

Roger Federer began his bid for a sixth consecutive Wimbledon crown with the easiest of first-round victories against Slovakia's Dominik Hrbaty today.

It took the reigning champion just one hour and 19 minutes to dispose of Hrbaty 6-3 6-2 6-2 and warn the doubters he has no intention of his Centre Court reign coming to an end just yet.

The world number one was in fine form, reeling off the first 11 points of the match and clearly revelling in Wimbledon's warm sunshine.

Federer broke Hrbaty's serve in the second game although the Slovak, who recently recovered from elbow surgery, produced the biggest cheer of the first set when he pulled off a miraculous winner in the sixth game with a back-handed squash-type shot following a Federer lob.

Federer, however, began to step through the gears in the second set against an opponent who has a protected ranking of 70 because of his recent injury lay-off and who had beaten the champion in both their previous meetings.

There appeared to be no chance of that this time as double faults by the Slovak allowed Federer to break serve in the first and third games.

Federer was honing his timing on his favourite surface, his sliced backhands keeping the ball low and causing Hrbaty problems.

One Federer backhand down the line in the fifth game of the third set had the hallmark of genius and, while his opponent was clearly struggling, there appeared to be no weakness in the champion's performance.

So impressive was his game that at the final changeover Hrbaty, who used to play doubles with Federer, sat down in the chair next to the champion presumably to ask for some tips.

Federer said: "It was a good match and good fun and the first time I have ever beaten him. I played well and was consistent all the way through. It is never easy to open the first day of Wimbledon but it was a real honour."

Federer now plays Sweden's Robin Soderling in the second round.

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