Federer back in Dubai with a bang as he beats Devvarman

The Swiss starts off smoothly at the Aviation Club with eyes on winning a fifth championship.

Roger Federer took little time in beating Somdev Devvarman 6-3, 6-3 at the Aviation Club yesterday.
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DUBAI // When Roger Federer claimed his first Dubai crown way back in 2003, he was still a few months short of winning a grand slam.

Dubai was the sixth ATP title of a promising professional career that started in 1998 and Federer had enchanted the Dubai crowd in a straight sets victory over Jiri Novak.

Every single spectator who had watched the young Swiss play was amazed by his talent, but few would have imagined the kind of impact he was to go on to make on the global stage.

Starting with Wimbledon in 2003, Federer has won 16 grand slams - the most by any man - and he is back trying to claim his fifth Dubai crown after he missed the last two tournaments due to injuries.

Playing in front of a packed stand, the top-seed brushed aside India's Somdev Devvarman 6-3, 6-3 to set up a second-round duel with Spain's Marcel Granollers.

"Obviously I am so much more experienced now," said Federer as he talked about the difference between the man who won his first Dubai title and now. "In 2003, I was just coming out of my teenage years and still trying to find the right ways to play well every day.

"That's something I struggled longer to do than maybe Rafa [Rafael Nadal], [Lleyton] Hewitt, [Marat] Safin or Novak [Djokovic]. And then at a younger age I was really inconsistent for a very long time.

"But for me, that was very challenging and I was able to turn that around.

"I became stronger physically and mentally I was able to make a huge jump forward by staying calm and focused on the tennis court.

"I am a better player now, but then I was young and there was no fear in me and you had nothing to lose.

"Sometimes it's easier to play that way as well.

"It is hard to dominate because I have been doing it for so long, but I feel I still have it in me."

Federer has proved that he still has it in him. He may not be a reigning grand slam champion now, for the first time since 2003, but he is 10-1 for the year, with a title in Doha and a semi-final defeat to eventual winner Djokovic at the Australian Open.

This is his eighth appearance in Dubai and his win-loss record here is 25 to three.

The Swiss made his debut in 2002, losing in the second round to Rainer Schuettler. His next defeat in Dubai came in 2006, when he lost to Nadal in the final and two years later Andy Murray knocked him out in the first round.

Devvarman, the world No 79, had no realistic chance playing against his idol.

To be fair, the Indian tried his best and never looked in awe. He served hard, tried to attack Federer's backhand, rushed to the net at every opportunity and went for some audacious winners.

His dogged spirit earned plenty of applause from the packed house. Every point was contested, but Federer just had a bit too much class for the youngster.

A Devvarman double-fault gave him a break in the sixth game of the first set. The Swiss faced two break points in the fourth game of the second, but retained his serve and broke the doughty Indian in the fifth and ninth to clinch the match.

"First rounds, honestly, I always expect tough matches," Federer said. "Not that I expect easier ones in the quarters, because usually the opponents are stronger.

"I've had some tough ones over the years here actually in the early round. That's why I don't judge my first rounds too harshly or whatever. It's about coming through and giving yourself a second chance the next day and then kind of move on in the draw.

"Then if you're in the quarters or the semis, this is when I expect myself to play much better. But early on, it's really about hopefully playing the right way and moving on in the draw.

"I am here in Dubai this year to try and win the tournament. It is exciting for me to come to places where I have done well in the past, even though it is 90 per cent of tournaments throughout the world.

"Even semi-finals and finals are good enough. I've really had good memories from so many good tournaments and this gets me going.

"I am feeling well and positive about the week."