From the moment he drilled a down-the-line forehand winner to break the Slovak and take a 3-1 lead in the first set, it was the beginning of Federer at his whirling-dervish best. He punctuated the set with a down-the-line backhand winner to wrap it up in just 22 minutes.
The second and third sets were mildly more competitive, but Federer was in such control that Channel Seven commentator Todd Woodbridge declared that he had never seen him play so well in a first-round match at a Grand Slam. Woodbridge used the word “magnificent” to describe the performance. Lacko, ranked No. 97, often looked like a puppet being manipulated by a master puppeteer.
In his post-match interview in Rod Laver Arena, Federer told the crowd, “I’m really enjoying myself, playing extremely well at the moment. The last six months have been fantastic, since my Wimbledon loss in the quarters against Berdych. I’m very happy with the way things are going and we’ll see how far I can go in this tournament.”
The stats for the match were what would be expected. Federer had 37 winners and just 18 unforced errors, was 16 for 20 at the net and won 66 percent of his second serve points. It ended in just one hour and 24 minutes, with Federer playfully tapping Lacko’s missed service return on a single bounce into the crowd after match point.
One of the only unusual occurrences in the match occurred in the second set. Federer squash-shotted a ball to the other end after a point, barely missing a young ballboy who had suddenly darted across at the net. Caught completely by surprise, Federer apologized profusely about the close shave.
There was a clue about the one-sided nature of the match afterward when it was announced that Federer would be in the interview room within 20 minutes of the match ending, something fairly unusual for him. My first reaction was that he was in a rush to get back to his place for the five o’clock feeding for the girls.
In the end, he didn’t come in quite as quickly, but you knew it still was certainly a pretty easy day at the office.