Tennis

Federer opens new year with steady win in Brisbane

Roger Federer
Roger Federer prepares to return serve against Jarkko Nieminen.
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BRISBANE, Australia (AP)

Roger Federer showed shreds of Stefan Edberg's influence as he got his 2014 season underway, advancing to the Brisbane International quarterfinals with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Jarkko Nieminen on Wednesday.

Federer worked briefly with Edberg in the offseason and will again use the six-time major winner as a coach in Melbourne as he tries to end his Grand Slam drought at the Australian Open this month.

The 32-year-old Swiss star is not suddenly turning to a serve-volley mindset, but he did venture to the net with good effect in his second-round match against Nieminen as he honed certain parts of his game.

"I've been serving OK, my forehand is going well, my movement is OK, I'm seeing the ball OK," said Federer, who won the last of his 17 Grand Slam titles at Wimbledon in 2012. "I expect to play a bit better in the next match, even though today was already very good for a first match in so many weeks."

After a day of injury withdrawals in the women's draw, No. 2-ranked Victoria Azarenka finished off the night session with a 6-3, 6-1 win over Casey Dellacqua.

The reigning two-time Australian Open champion followed Federer's match on center court.

Federer, in the decisive game of the first set, rallied from 40-0 down and won the next five points to break for a 3-2 lead. He started with a pinpoint lob that caught the baseline and followed it up with a sharp, angled volley that turned the momentum.

He broke serve twice in the first three games of the second set and cruised to a comfortable win.

Awaiting top-seeded Federer in the quarterfinals is Australia's Marinko Matosevic, who beat American Sam Querrey 5-7, 7-6 (3), 6-4. Second-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan had a 6-2, 6-2 win over Matthew Ebden to set up a quarterfinal against Marin Cilic of Croatia.

Cilic, in his second tournament following a four-month doping ban, had a 7-5, 7-5 win over fifth-seeded Grigor Dimitrov, a Brisbane finalist last year.

Cilic, who reached a career-high No. 9 in 2010 but finished last season at No. 37, said playing again "feels like a new beginning for me."

"I'm thinking about everything around myself in a different perspective," he said. "I'm excited to be in the season and to play, to be back on the tour after all that misery last year."

Azarenka's match was the only women's second-rounder to go the distance Wednesday. She'll next play Stefanie Voegele of Switzerland, who advanced when Wimbledon finalist Sabine Lisicki forfeited due to a stomach illness.

Maria Sharapova got a walkover into the quarterfinals when Australian teenager Ashleigh Barty withdrew and fifth-seeded Angelique Kerber progressed when Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia retired in the second set with a left leg injury. Kerber was leading 6-2, 4-3 against last year's runner-up.

Caroline Wozniacki, who withdrew ahead of the Brisbane tournament after injuring her shoulder in practice, confirmed her engagement to golf star Rory McIlroy earlier Wednesday, posting photos of the couple and the ring on Twitter.

It was no surprise to Azarenka, who said she'd predicted the engagement last year at the Brisbane International.

"I'm really happy for her. If she will remember, I called it last year when I saw her in the locker room," Azarenka said. "I said, `You'll be engaged by the end of the year.' Technically, I was right. I even remember the spot in the locker room where I said that. I'm a psychic!"

In the Hopman Cup at Perth, France beat the United States 2-1 to stay unbeaten in its group. Sloane Stephens beat Alize Cornet 7-5, 6-0, but Jo-Wilfried Tsonga downed John Isner 7-6 (1), 6-3 and the French won the doubles tiebreaker 6-1, 5-7 (10-5).

At Auckland, New Zealand, former world No. 1s Venus Williams and Ana Ivanovic moved closer to a semifinal meeting when they won second-round matches at the WTA's ASB Classic.

Williams beat Yvonne Meusburger of Austria 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 and second-seeded Ivanovic defeated Johanna Larsen of Sweden 6-1, 6-1.

After beating top-seeded Roberta Vinci on Tuesday, 16-year-old Croatia's Ana Konjuh was beaten 2-6, 6-2, 6-2 by American Lauren Davis, who will play fifth-seeded compatriot Jamie Hampton in the quarterfinals.

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