Roger Federer and Marat Safin rolled to easy victories on Wednesday against first-time opponents to reach the Australian Open's third round, where the familiarity factor will be much higher: They'll be playing each other.
|Marat Safin serves up [GALLO/GETTY]
"I'm happy to be playing Marat; we have fought some battles," Federer said after ousting error-prone Evgeny Korolev of Russia 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 in just 86 minutes.
"We had the epic in 2005."
That was a semi-final thriller here that Safin won in a 9-7 fifth set en route to the championship.
Federer, seeking to tie Pete Sampras' record of 14 Grand Slam titles, has won their last three meetings, including the last two at Wimbledon.
Although Federer's No. 2 ranking is 24 places higher, Safin's talent, unpredictability and famed volatility set the stage for an early marquee matchup.
Safin, a former world No. 1, beat Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain 7-5, 6-2, 6-2.
He will turn 29 next week and has said he is unlikely to play after this year, so he is aiming to enjoy what could be his farewell tour.
"I have nothing to lose," Safin said.
"I'm going to go for it. Whatever comes, comes.
"He knows how to play against me; I know how to play against him."
The winner would be on track for a possible semi-final meeting against defending champion Novak Djokovic, who traded shots with No. 68 Jeremy Chardy for nearly a set before the Frenchman faltered.
Third-ranked Djokovic cruised the rest of the way for a 7-5, 6-1, 6-3 win.
"I'm playing better and better which is very encouraging," Djokovic said.
"I really stepped it up."
His fellow Serbs Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic advanced on the women's side, though they finished with different attitudes.
Ivanovic lost last year's final here to Maria Sharapova, who is out with a shoulder injury.
She was happy she played better in her 6-3, 6-2 victory over Italy's Alberta Brianti than she did in the first round.
Top-ranked Jankovic, seeking her first Grand Slam title and recovering from illness, felt she regressed while ousting Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium 6-4, 7-5.
"I wasn't really happy with my game, what I was doing on the court," said Jankovic, who needed treatment on her right foot in the first set.
"I have to clean up my game a little bit and try to do the right things for my next match."
|Roddick powers the forehand home [GALLO/GETTY]
Seventh-seeded Andy Roddick had his hands full against Xavier Malisse of Belgium, a former top 20 player who had to go through qualifying because his ranking has fallen to No. 195 due to a wrist injury.
Roddick, a semi-finalist here three times and the 2003 US Open champion, rallied for a hard-fought 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (1), 6-2 victory.
Malisse seemed to lose steam after forcing the third-set tiebreaker, where he won only one point.
Roddick next faces 36-year-old Fabrice Santoro of France, who had an even tougher time, going five sets and more than four hours to beat Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber, the No. 32 seed.
Former Wimbledon runner-up David Nalbandian, who won in Sydney last week
and was seeded 10th, was knocked out by unheralded Yen-hsun Lu of Taiwan 6-4, 5-7, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 in just under four hours.
The 25-year-old Lu had never advanced past the second round in 12 previous Slams.
Djokovic next faces Bosnian-born Amer Delic, of Jacksonville, Florida.
Delic, who got a spot in the draw as a lucky loser from qualifying when other players withdrew, rallied to beat No. 28 Paul-Henri Mathieu of France 1-6, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (3), 9-7.
Delic beat American Taylor Dent in the first round.
Dent's father Phil, a former Australian Davis Cup player, complained about unruly behaviour from flag-waving Bosnian fans.
Delic anticipated an emotion-charged environment in the next round, saying he'd appeal for calm among his supporters, and expected Djokovic would do the same.
No. 3 Dinara Safina overcame 44 unforced errors in a 6-7 (3), 6-3, 6-0 win over fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova and will next play No. 25 Kaia Kanepi of Estonia.
Safina lost to a qualifier here in the first round last year but went on to be runner-up at the French Open, take the Olympic silver medal and reach the US Open semi-finals.
Unseeded Jelena Dokic, a former Wimbledon semi-finalist making her first appearance in the main draw of a Grand Slam after a three-year absence to
|Dokic is back and has finally shaken off the influence of her father [GALLO/GETTY]
deal with personal problems, ousted 17th-seeded Anna Chakvetadze 6-4, 6-7 (4), 6-3.
No. 10 Nadia Petrova beat India's Sania Mirza.
Also advancing were No. 7 Vera Zvonareva of Russia, No. 15 Alize Cornet of France and No. 19 Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia.
No. 26 Ai Sugiyama of Japan defeated Nathalie Dechy of France and next faces Jankovic.
Among the men's seeded players advancing were No. 11 David Ferrer of Spain, No. 15 Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland, No. 19 Marin Cilic of Croatia, No. 20 Tomas Berdych of Czech Republic, and No. 21 Tommy Robredo of Spain and American Mardy Fish, seeded 23rd.
In the doubles, second-ranked Bob and Mike Bryan opened with a victory, as did Serena and Venus Williams, the Beijing Olympics doubles gold medallists on the women's side.