Roger Federer saw off a brave challenge from American qualifier Frances Tiafoe before emerging with a 7-6 (7/2) 6-3 victory as he got his Miami Open title bid underway late Saturday.
Tiafoe, ranked 101st in the world, struggled against Federer’s serve but put in an overall plucky display to force a first set tie-break in which the Swiss maestro came out on top.
The 19-year-old began the second set on an even better note, breaking Federer’s serve in the first game, only for the reigning Indian Wells champion to break back twice and run out a comfortable winner in the end.
Federer, 35, has been in fine form this year following up his record-extending 18th Grand Slam win at the Australian Open with victory in the California desert, and will be going for his third Miami Open title following wins in 2005 and 2006.
Earlier, reigning US Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka got off to a solid start crushing Argentina’s Horacio Zeballos 6-3, 6-4 at Crandon Park.
Wawrinka, 31, comes in as the top seed in the absence of Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic –the top two ranked players in the world – and will be looking to go one better than his last appearance at Indian Wells where he was beaten by compatriot Federer.
The three-time Grand Slam champion next faces Tunisia’s Malek Jaziri, a 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 winner over Spain’s Feliciano Lopez.