Roger Federer put in a strong performance against a resilient Yen-Hsun Lu during the first round of the 2015 Australian Open, winning in straight sets 6-4, 6-2, 7-5.
Federer was rarely troubled against the defensive Lu, employing his strong service and polished strokes from the baseline on his way to a routine win. Lu put in a valiant effort on his own serve and showed incredible stamina, but he never displayed the type of aggression needed to have any chance of stealing a set from Federer.
FedExpress started the match with a bang, crushing a fantastic backhand winner in the opening game to show Lu he meant business. His Taiwanese opponent didn’t back down, however, showing remarkable ability to extend rallies and force Federer into risky shots.
The 31-year-old Lu kept up with Federer’s pace until he finally lost his serve down 3-2, and the Swiss veteran calmly served out the first set.
The statistics from the first stanza were telling: Lu approached the net just once and hit only six winners, playing a defensive game. Federer hit an unusual 10 unforced errors and converted just one of six break chances, but his dominance on his own serve easily made the difference.
The second set played out in a similar manner, with Lu clinging on for dear life until his serve was broken again in the fifth game. Federer shifted gears slightly and pushed his Taiwanese opponent back, ending the set with three swift and easy games.
Federer put his full array of shots on display in the third set, including another audacious backhand that passed the post. Incredibly enough, this wasn’t the first time Lu was on the receiving end of such a brilliant piece of skill.
Fans were in awe as the former World No. 1 engaged in rally after rally with Lu, who covered every inch of the court. The little-known veteran deserves a ton of credit for making the match such an entertaining one, putting on a fantastic defensive performance.
The 33-year-old wasn’t overly aggressive in his shots, patiently building in the rallies and relying on winners and solid play from the baseline to score his points. While his return game wasn’t top notch, his serve more than made up for it.
Lu gave Federer all he could handle in the final set but relented to the pressure in the 11th game, allowing Federer to serve out the match.
Ahead of Sunday’s match, the four-time Australian Open winner told reporters he feels better about his game going into this year’s tournament than he did last year, and his performance against Lu didn’t fall short of expectations.
Federer was far from perfect on Sunday—there were far too many unforced errors in his game, and his forehand winners often lacked the sharpness to trouble some of the top players in the world—but as far as opening matches go, the Swiss star couldn’t have asked for much more.
Lu presented Federer with a willing partner, engaged in plenty of rallies and gave one of the tournament favourites a solid workout heading into the next round. With a little fine tuning of his game, Federer appears to be in great position to add a fifth Australian Open title to his impressive collection of silverware.