MELBOURNE, Australia -- By the time the third game of the match was over, Roger Federer had already cracked four spectacular backhand winners.
When that wing is working, Federer is nearly untouchable as he showed in a dominant 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 win against No. 117 Nikoloz Basilashvili in the first round of the Australian Open.
Federer won a lightning-quick, 23-minute opening set and never looked back. It was an auspicious start for the Swiss, who on Saturday in his pre-Aussie news conference said he was finally able to practice normally after starting the season feeling under the weather.
By all accounts, Federer's match against Basilashvili was little more than a practice session. Federer hit 31 winners, three times more than his opponent, and won 92 percent of his first-serve points.
"That was a good match," Federer said afterward. "I'm really pleased how I was able to play. Definitely gives me a bit of a lift in confidence, because this year I haven't been able to play properly yet. I mean, I had some decent matches in Brisbane, but it was all under, you know, sort of a cloud knowing that I wasn't 100 percent."
Federer entered this Australian Open under the direction of new coach Ivan Ljubicic. Although there were no glaring tactical changes Monday, the No. 3 Swiss showed a vast array of slice and topspin from the baseline and attacked the net with precision, winning 12 of 18 approaches.
Basilashvili, 23, was playing his first match against a top-10 opponent and was hoping to become only the second Georgian player to reach the second round of the Australian Open. But he found himself off balance for most of the match against a player with far more experience. The last time Federer lost to an opponent ranked as low as Basilashvili came at Wimbledon in 2002, when he fell to No. 154 Mario Ancic.
At 34 years old, Federer is looking to become the oldest Grand Slam winner since Andres Gimeno, also 34, won the 1972 French Open.
Father Time hasn't appeared to affect Federer, however. Last season he won six titles, his most since 2012. And while he beat Novak Djokovic in the Dubai and Cincinnati finals, Federer came up short when it mattered most, falling to the top-ranked Serb in the Wimbledon and US Open championship matches.
As long as Federer is feeling healthy, he should have plenty more chances to add to his record 17 Grand Slam trophies.
This Aussie Open marks the 65th straight major Federer has played, extending yet another one of his records.
"I guess I got a little bit lucky along the way, for sure," Federer said. "I have played hurt and sick a few times; that's how it goes. It's something I am quite proud of because I've played a full schedule for so many years."