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RogerAtAusOpen.jpg

Roger Federer has never lost in the first round of the Australian Open, but try and find an image of that first match at Melbourne Park and it's not an easy task.

Then the world No.62, the 18-year-old with the fluid strokes was considered simply another potential top 10 player who was yet to prove himself.

Looking back on the Swiss Superstar's first foray at Melbourne Park it comes as no surprise that he defeated Michael Chang, a Grand Slam title winner and then world No.38, no less.

Federer's early years in Melbourne were not remarkable but they whispered a promise of more to come. Third round appearances in 2000 and 2001 were followed by consecutive fourth-rounds in 2002 and 2003 - all of which proved to be the foundation for the legacy he would later build.

Roger's Melbourne breakthrough came in 2004. Already a champion the previous year at Wimbledon, Federer entered the event as the second seed, behind reigning US Open champion Andy Roddick. Victories over Lleyton Hewitt and David Nalbandian were the highlights for Federer.

“I've had bad records against them. To have won the tournament with beating these guys, really it adds, you know, just more - more quality - even better."

A straight-sets victory over burly Russian Marat Safin in the final was no fluke but a warning of things to come. That final saw Federer get better the longer the match lasted – soon to be a trademark.

Twelve months on and Marat would have his revenge over Federer in a classic semifinal that would only spur the world No.1 to greater heights in 2006 and 2007.

In 2006 the top seed had to overcome the Smiling Cypriot, Marcos Baghdatis, who had captured the collective heart of the tennis world with his fearless game and infectious smile.

The fairytale wasn't to be for Marcos as Federer put a stop to his run in four sets. This title set Federer up for statistically his most dominant year on the tour – a 92-5 season that created "a monster" that Federer would refer to later in his career.

A tearful Federer accepted the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup from his idol Rod Laver and endeared himself to fans worldwide with his sincerity in victory.

Australian Open 2007 was Federer at his awe-inspiring best. He didn't drop a set in seven matches and knocked out five seeded players.

Not even Chile's Fernando Gonzalez and his whip-like forehand could penetrate Federer's bullet-proof game.

By 2008 Federer was a superstar. Not just in tennis, but all sports. He had owned the top spot since 2004, his face adorned billboards in every city he played and so it came as a shock when third seed Novak Djokovic bundled him out in the semifinals in straight sets.

Despite not winning the event, it was still a top four finish – a great return for anyone. Anyone but Federer according to the media. The world No.1 had become so dominant that he was expected to always win and if he didn't there would be questions, many questions.

"Of course, I've created a monster, so I know I need to always win every tournament. But semis is still, you know, pretty good," he reflected after the loss to Djokovic.

What nobody knew then was that Federer was battling mononucleosis, which wasn't diagnosed until the completion of AO2008, making his semifinal finish all the more impressive.

The final of 2009 versus Rafael Nadal is as famous for the match as it is for the presentation. Four classic sets highlighted the best of these two modern day rivals.

Nadal would ultimately run away with the match in the fifth set and famously consoled Federer during the presentation, such was the mutual respect between the pair.

Roger's most recent triumph in Melbourne came in 2010 when he piled more Grand Slam misery on Great Scot Andy Murray in a straight-sets final.

The past three years have seen Federer make it deep into each event but his progress to the final has been halted by his fellow members of the Big 4 – Djokovic in 2011, Nadal in 2012 and Murray last year.

Tennis fans around the world hope that the Swiss Maestro can once more weave his brilliance at what will be his fiftennth Australian Open.

And should Federer win his opening round, just as he did in 2000 against Chang, hopefully this time around there won't be any problems finding a picture or two of that victory.

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Post-Tournament
Thursday, 24 July 2014
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