Roger Federer fears that he might not be able to repeat his "fairytale" 2017 Australian Open victory this month, but the men's singles favourite did little to dampen expectations regarding a 20th Grand Slam title on Tuesday (16 January) as he began his latest Melbourne campaign with a typically dominant victory over Aljaz Bedene.
Federer's triumph over old rival Rafael Nadal in the final of last year's tournament, which came after a six-month injury lay-off, was his first in a major tournament for five years. It sparked a memorable renaissance that also included a 'Sunshine Double' - victory at Indian Wells and Miami - a record eighth Wimbledon success and another defeat of Nadal in Shanghai that saw him move level with Ivan Lendl for second place on the list of Open Era title-winners (94). He later pulled clear by winning the Swiss Indoors in Basel.
Despite his advancing years, the 36-year-old went into the latest edition of the Australian Open as the front-runner with Andy Murray absent following hip surgery and the likes of Nadal and Novak Djokovic returning from injury.
He had little trouble in seeing off Bedene, the former British Davis Cup hopeful who has now switched his international allegiance back to Slovenia.
Federer took only 99 minutes to wrap up a confident 6-3 6-4 6-1 straight-sets victory and set up a second-round tie against Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany.
"My dream was always to play for a long time," he said after that latest win, per the Herald Sun. "I didn't expect to play this well and come back as the defending champion this year but I'll take it. I'm loving it and hopefully I can play for a little longer.
"I'm hoping for it to go well again, I'm just not sure it can go that well; last year was just so good. I'm worried it kind of won't be (as good as last year) because I'm a year older, guys are coming back again ... I can't control it all and last year was a fairytale."
Day two round-up
Elsewhere on day two at Melbourne Park, Djokovic marked his return to action with a straightforward defeat of Donald Youngand Maria Sharapova powered past Tatjana Maria as Simona Halep defeated wildcard Destanee Aiava.
British number one Johanna Konta will face Bernarda Pera next after confidently seeing off Madison Brengle, but Heather Watson fell at the first hurdle with defeat to Kazakh Yulia Putintseva.
Anna-Lena Friedsam proved no match for compatriot and 2016 winner Angelique Kerber, while Karolina Pliskova beat Veronica Cepede Royg, Garbine Muguruza eased any lingering fitness fears by vanquishing Jessika Ponchet and Carolina Garcia knocked out Carina Witthoeft.
Alexander Zverev and Stan Wawrinka eliminated Thomas Fabbiano and Ricardas Berankis respectively and there were also wins for Dominic Thiem, David Goffin, Tomas Berdych, Fabio Fognini, Richard Gasquet and Sam Querrey.
In the women's singles Eugenie Bouchard, Elena Vesnina, Madison Keys, Agnieszka Radwanska, Mirjana Lucic-Baroni and Barbora Strycova all reached the second round.
In terms of shocks, Milos Raonic was ousted by Lukas Lacko, Fernando Verdasco toppled Roberto Bautista Agut and women's 11th seed Kristina Mladenovic suffered her 15th successive loss at the hands of Romania's Ana Bogdan. Meanwhile, Petra Kvitova's Australian Open comeback was ended by Andrea Petkovic.