Federer eyes first win of 2013 at Indian Wells
The Indian Wells Masters couldn't come at a better time for Roger Federer, a four-time champion in the California desert who is seeking his first tournament title of 2013.
The Swiss great, seeded second in the first of the ATP's elite Masters events of the year behind world number one Novak Djokovic, missed out on retaining titles in Rotterdam and Dubai.
In Rotterdam he fell to France's Julien Benneteau in the quarter-finals, while in Dubai he failed to convert three match points in a semi-final loss to Tomas Berdych.
But Federer didn't seem to think it was time to panic as he assessed his season so far on Thursday.
"I think I played really well in Australia," he said of his semi-final run in the Australian Open. "Rotterdam, I was disappointed with. I felt I could have done better.
"Dubai was a bit unfortunate, losing with three match points and having to explain the loss when you feel you should be preparing for the final.
"What happened, happened. I'm playing fine. Obviously I hoped to have won a tournament by now, but I'm happy with my game."
Federer's victory over American John Isner in last year's Indian Wells final made him the first to win the men's title at this combined WTA and ATP event four times.
In his second-round opener on Saturday, Federer will face Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan, who defeated Canadian qualifier Vasek Pospisil 7-6 (7/5), 6-3 on Thursday.
With all 32 seeds in both the men's and women's draws enjoying first-round byes, other first-round winners on Thursday included former world number one and two-time Indian Wells champion Lleyton Hewitt of Australia, who defeated Czech Lukas Rosol 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 to book a meeting with Isner.
Fellow Australian Bernard Tomic also reached the second round, posting a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Thomaz Bellucci.
Federer's path to a title repeat could include a quarter-final clash with Rafael Nadal.
Spain's Nadal is seeded fifth as he continues his return from a seven-month injury absence.
"I only just saw him yesterday after my practice. I was really excited to see him again," Federer said. "We hadn't had much contact. I think he wanted to get away from it all, which I really understand."
Third-seeded US Open champion Andy Murray noted it would be odd to see Nadal and Federer squaring off as early as the quarters.
"Seeing him in the same quarter as Roger is probably something that hasn't happened in nine or 10 years," Murray said.
Nadal's first opponent will be American Ryan Harrison, who out-lasted Japan's Go Soeda 6-0, 4-6, 6-3 on a blustery night on stadium court.
Women's seeds were to swing into action on Friday, with second-seeded Maria Sharapova taking on former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone of Italy and third-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland launching her campaign against US wild card Maria Sanchez.
Former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, the fifth seed, will play a second-round match against Olga Govortsova of Belarus.