WIMBLEDON, England – One year after escaping from his first-round match at Wimbledon with a five-set victory, Roger Federer and his commanding serve were in no mood for a repeat performance.
The six-time Wimbledon champion won 68 of the 80 points on his serve against Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan and saved the only three break points he faced, winning 7-6 (2), 6-4, 6-2 Tuesday.
Last year, playing first on Centre Court as defending champion, Federer lost the opening two sets before eventually beating Alejandro Falla 5-7, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (1), 6-0.
"Yeah," Federer said, "but the result was the same: I was able to win."
The 16-time Grand Slam champion ended up losing to Tomas Berdych in the quarterfinals at the All England Club last year, his earliest exit since winning his first major in 2003. But he walked out onto Centre Court this year and dominated, winning 29 of the 31 points on his serve in the first set.
"The first rounds here at Wimbledon on Centre Court are never easy," Federer said. "They're somewhat nerve-racking because you don't get a chance to practice on the Centre Courts here."
If Federer can maintain the form that led him back into the French Open final this month — albeit ending with a fourth loss to Rafael Nadal in the deciding match at Roland Garros — he'll have a chance to equal the record of seven Wimbledon titles held by Pete Sampras and Willie Renshaw.
"Obviously tying Pete in any stats means you're right up there with maybe the greatest, one of the greatest players of all times, and that's always a nice thing," said Federer, who equaled Sampras' then-record of 14 Grand Slam titles when he won the French Open in 2009. "Winning Wimbledon alone without any records is amazing."
Federer is playing in his 47th straight major championship, and he has reached the quarterfinals at every one since the 2004 Wimbledon tournament.
In all that time, which includes a record streak of 23 straight semifinal appearances, the Swiss great has rarely been bothered by physical problems.
"I think it has helped me with injuries, yes, that my game is somewhat casual, but in a good way, because I had to work on my casualness," Federer said. "I was very quickly pointed out that if I'm losing I'm not trying, and if I'm winning it's an amazing situation.
"So I had to really tie my game together, make it solid casual, really. I think I was able to do that."
Federer had 53 winners against Kukushkin and 12 aces. His opponent, meanwhile, had only 16 winners, but still managed to force a tiebreaker at the beginning of the match.
"I struggled early on in the first set to get any read on his serve, even though he's not the biggest server. But he served consistent," Federer said. "Centre Court, the surroundings were just a bit off in the beginning, and he did well. That made it difficult."
But even in difficult conditions, with the wind blowing on a cool first day of summer in London, Federer's serve did not fail him.
"I was able to actually cruise almost through lots of my service games," Federer said. "That then maybe probably relaxed me at times maybe a bit too much."
Federer also entered the tournament this year with less expectation than in the past, at least according to him. The same happened at the French Open, where Federer ended Novak Djokovic's 43-match winning streak in the semifinals.
"I definitely think also here, it's somewhat similar," Federer said. "I can play with a bit less pressure, but at the same time I want to do so well here at Wimbledon because it's some of the big highlights for me during the season, and I've won the tournament six times.
"So it feels like if things go well for me, I can go extremely far here."