Refreshed Federer makes encouraging start to year

Wed Jan 1, 2014 7:32am EST
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By Ciaran Baynes

BRISBANE (Reuters) - A refreshed Roger Federer's clinical demolition of Jarkko Nieminen in his first match of 2014 suggested he could be a factor in the first major of the year.

His debut appearance at the Brisbane International was rapturously greeted by tournament organizers and fans alike, but following his first year without a grand slam final appearance since 2002 it was not certain what stage of decline the Swiss ace was in.

A 6-4 6-2 victory over his tough Finnish opponent hinted that he was ready to put on a competitive showing at Melbourne Park, now relieved of the back problems that dogged his 2013 campaign and contributed to his second and fourth-round exits at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.

"I'm actually very clear in my mind," Federer told reporters. "Now it's just down to forehands and backhands and tactics and movement. That's kind of what you want it to be, because unfortunately it hasn't always been that way last year with my issues."

The scoreline flattered Federer in some ways. Both men eked out four break points over the two sets and Nieminen fought on level terms at the baseline, hitting eye-catching forehand winners throughout.

Federer's mastery of the pivotal points of the match showed the steel behind the game's most graceful player remained firmly in place and his preference for playing new tournaments is far from a retirement tour.

For the crucial break of the first set he came from 0-40 down in the fifth game and then saved a break point on his own serve to build a two-game cushion.

IMPERIOUS BEST   Continued...

Roger Federer of Switzerland serves against Jarkko Nieminen of Finland during their men's singles match at the Brisbane International tennis tournament in Brisbane, January 1, 2014. REUTERS/Jason Reed