The French-speaking voice booming through loudspeakers at Court Philippe Chatrier recited Roger Federer’s bona fides during prematch introductions, detailing his six titles at Wimbledon, five at the U.S. Open, four at the Australian Open and then, reaching a crescendo, concluded this way:
“One at Roland Garros, here, last year!”
Federer smiled. Fans roared, many rising to applaud. Playing at the French Open as defending champion for the first time, Federer gave ’em plenty to cheer about Monday, dipping into his considerable repertoire of shotmaking in a 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 victory over 71st-ranked Peter Luczak of Australia.
With the end result far from in doubt, Federer turned the outing into a glorified practice session. He closed one extended exchange by slicing a backhand with so much spin that, after landing, the ball darted back toward the net, away from Luczak. Federer acknowledged the cheers by raising an index finger, lest somebody forget he’s No. 1.
“If it was anyone else, I’d be getting pretty angry,” said Luczak, whose career mark in Grand Slam matches fell to 5-14. “He just had me on a string and just (was) toying with me at the end. I think he was enjoying it.”
Federer made only 11 unforced errors, won 50 of 64 points on his serve and faced one break point, which he saved.
“I was pretty relaxed,” said Federer, who can tie Pete Sampras’ record of 286 total weeks at No. 1 in the rankings June 7. “It was like a perfect match to get off the French Open campaign, really.”
Other top players ? even those who also won ? were less pleased with their performances on Day 2, when a searing sun carried the temperature into the 80s and made the most grueling of tennis’ surfaces even more of a test of fitness.
The No. 1-ranked woman, Serena?Williams, for example, found little to smile about after following Federer into the main stadium and beating Stefanie Voegele of Switzerland 7-6 (2), 6-2.
“I definitely didn’t feel good about it,” said Williams, who counts the 2002 French Open among her 12 major championships. “At least I won. I think I’m still in the tournament; that’s what matters.”
She compiled 10 aces, converted 3 of 3 break points and accumulated a 28-13 edge in winners. Asked what pleased her about the way she played, Williams replied: “Across the board, nothing, really, just to be honest.”
It was not the sort of afternoon for long outings, but some players just can’t seem to help themselves, such as No. 4 Andy Murray and former top-10 player Richard Gasquet of France. Gasquet started well, but Murray finished well and won 4-6, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-2, 6-1.
Murray also lost the first two sets before beating Gasquet in five at Wimbledon in 2008.
Murray’s body language was about as bad as his play in the early going, and he pounded a fist into his forehead after blowing one backhand slice attempt in the third set. Yet it was Gasquet, who missed last year’s French Open after testing positive for cocaine, that faded. So Murray ? a 2009 quarterfinalist at Roland Garros, twice the runner-up at other major tournaments, and Britain’s best hope for its first male Grand Slam champion since the 1930s ? still will be around in the second round.
“He’s always fighting, fighting, putting all the balls in the court,” Gasquet said. “Even if he’s not playing so good, he’s very tough to beat.”
Two seeded Spaniards lost, No. 21 Tommy Robredo and No. 27 Feliciano Lopez, while Monday’s winners included No. 3 Novak Djokovic, No. 12 Fernando Gonzalez, No. 13 Gael Monfils, No. 14 Ivan Ljubicic, No. 19 Nicolas Almagro, No. 25 Marcos Baghdatis, and three U.S. men: No. 17 John Isner, Taylor Dent and Mardy Fish.
The 29-year-old Dent never before had won a French Open match and remarked with a wide smile: “Better late than never, right?”
He pointed out that the hot and dry weather has transformed the clay, making the surface “really quick. It’s almost like a hard court out there.”
One figures that should bode well for him and the 6-foot-9 Isner, as well as two other big-serving Americans, Andy Roddick and Sam Querrey, who are on Tuesday’s schedule. Remember: No U.S. man has reached the French Open quarterfinals since Andre Agassi in 2003.
“If it’s fast, it’s ideal for the Americans, more so than any other type of players out here,” Dent said. “We always have that label, like, ‘Oh, you’re American. First round. See you later.’ So I think we get a lot of pride from winning matches here.”
There were zero notable upsets among the women, and Williams will be joined in the second round by No. 3 Caroline Wozniacki, No. 4 Jelena Jankovic, No. 5 Elena Dementieva, No. 7 Sam Stosur, No. 8 Agnieszka Radwanska, No. 11 Li Na, No. 17 Francesca Schiavone and No. 24 Lucie Safarova.
Ana Ivanovic, the 2008 French Open champion and former No. 1 now ranked 42nd, won her opener, but Melanie Oudin, the teenager from Marietta, Ga., who made surprising runs at last year’s Wimbledon and U.S. Open, lost to Anabel Medina Garrigues of Spain 7-5, 6-2.
Oudin lost in qualifying at Roland Garros a year ago, but her ranking of 37th now allows her direct entry into tournaments ? meaning she keeps gaining experience at tennis’ top levels.
“I’m definitely used to it a lot more because I’ve been in this environment more now than I was before,” Oudin said. “I still love playing, and I think that’s the important thing ? that I’m enjoying it, looking forward to going to new places that I get to go this year.”
Source: The Associated Press.