Showing no signs of ring rust, Roger Federer has begun his campaign for a record-equalling seventh Australian Open title by dispatching American Steve Johnson in straight sets.
In his first competitive outing since losing to Stefanos Tsitsipas at the ATP Finals in mid-November, Federer broke world No.75 Johnson's serve early in each set of the 6-3 6-2 6-2 victory on Monday.
"I just haven't played proper matches in many, many weeks, and a lot of guys, probably 95 per cent of the guys are coming here with matches," said the 38-year-old Swiss.
"So I'm not one of those guys, but now I have one.
"Best of five (sets) too, which is even better.
"For me, really the first three rounds are key to get going, to get used to the pressure, stay calm, when to save break point or 30-all points or whatever it may be.
"This is sort of the unknown that can be a little bit scary at times.
"But today there was none of that because I broke early each set and was able to get on a roll and play freely after that."
The evergreen Swiss has not lost in the opening round of a major since the 2003 French Open and has never been beaten in the first or second round at Melbourne Park.
Even more remarkably, Federer has advanced at least as far as the semi-finals in 14 of his previous 16 outings at the Australian Open.
"When you win, it's all good, you know, or even when you make semis and beyond, you know you're in good shape, plus you're just coming off the off-season so you have the confidence," he said.
"You have practice flowing through your body, too.
"The problem is sometimes when you play too many matches and you don't have that practice block, in a way you're just playing to win, just trying to weasel your way to the next victory and you forget how to properly play tennis.
"So the Australian Open, it's nice if you play well, but there is no drama as if it doesn't go well for the rest of the season.
"It's worse if later in the season success is not there and you're missing that block of practice and you can't rely on it anymore because it's too far back."
Novak Djokovic holds the record for most men's Australian Open singles titles with seven, including last year's triumph over Rafael Nadal.
Federer's second-round opponent on Wednesday will be either French qualifier Quentin Halys or Serb Filip Krajinovic.
Australian Associated Press