MELBOURNE, Jan 14 — Roger Federer and Andy Murray spent mercifully little time on court but Lleyton Hewitt bowed out in a five-set thriller as temperatures rose at the Australian Open today.
Federer, the 17-time Grand Slam title winner, made light work of Australian wildcard James Duckworth, winning 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 in one hour 46 minutes as temperatures hovered around 42 Celsius (107.6 Fahrenheit).
Three-time runner-up Andy Murray was on court for one hour 27 minutes to register a 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 win over Japan's Go Soeda.
But fiercely competitive Hewitt will not join the two superstars in the second round after going down 7-6 (7/4), 6-3, 5-7, 5-7, 7-5 to Italian 24th seed Andreas Seppi in a draining four hours and 18 minutes.
Elsewhere on a testing day at Melbourne Park, former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro came from a set down to oust American Rhyne Williams.
Japan's Kei Nishikori was taken to five sapping sets with Australian Marinko Matosevic before advancing, and former Australian finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga brushed aside Italian Filippo Volandri in straight sets.
Federer said he was ready to prove he is not a spent force after making a winning start under new coach Stefan Edberg.
Federer has more Grand Slam titles than any other player but only one, Wimbledon 2012, in the last four years. He is currently ranked at world number six.
He said he was excited to be teaming up with former world number one and six-time major champion Edberg, and was ready to prove he could rediscover his best form.
“I feel good, I'm excited. For me I want to show, prove to myself that I can bring it every match. I'm really excited. It's a tough draw, but I'm open for it and I'm ready to go,” Federer said.
Murray, the fourth seed, is working his way to full match fitness after back surgery.
Murray said his back felt fully recovered, but added that the long lay-off meant the rest of his body was not yet at the level he would like.
The Scot had surgery in September, missing the rest of last season, and his preparations for Melbourne, where he lost to Novak Djokovic in last year's final, have not been good.
With new coach Michael Chang watching in the stands, Nishikori finished the better in the heatwave conditions to fight off the 54th-ranked Matosevic.
Nishikori, who beat Tomas Berdych in the final of the exhibition Kooyong Classic in Melbourne last weekend, will play Serbian qualifier Dusan Lajovic in the next round.
Czech veteran Radek Stepanek was a casualty today after being forced out with a neck injury while leading his first-round match with Blaz Kavcic.
Stepanek, 35, was leading 7-6 (7/3), 6-4, 1-6, 0-2 at the time of his retirement. — AFP