In his first match at Roland Garros since 2015, Roger Federer eased into the second round without any problems as he took out the French Open debutant Lorenzo Sonego in straight sets.
The reception I got today was crazy. Was really nice to see a full stadium for a first round like this Roger Federer
Playing on the opening day on the refurbished Court Philippe Chatrier the 20-time Grand Slam champion swept past the Italian 6-2 6-4 6-4.
Federer, who missed the French Open in 2016 with a back injury and then decided to avoid the clay court swing of the tour to concentrate on Wimbledon, won the title 10 years ago to complete a career Grand Slam.
“I missed you, thanks very much for the welcome,” Federer said to the crowd after his victory. “I was quite tense at the start.”
His original welcome when he came on court would have lifted the Swiss icon who was greeted with wild applause and enthusiastic chants from fans calling out his name.
The match itself kept him busy for 101-minutes and he delighted those fans who had missed him over the past three years with some tremendous shot-making.
“The reception I got today was crazy. Was really nice to see a full stadium for a first round like this,” Federer said, comparing the atmosphere to that of a final.
“I feel,” he said, “that the public missed me. And I missed them, as well.”
And he certainly served up what they wanted opening up with an ace on his first service game and then finishing it off with another. There were drop shot winners on the run; quick serve-and-volley points and his usual winners cross courts angled down the line. And the crowd loved it.
Even Sonego had to admit: “In the important moments, he raises his level and turns into a computer,” Sonego said. “He never makes the wrong choice.”
In contrast Kei Nishikori weathered a third-set rally from France’s Quentin Halys but made it through the next round for the fifth consecutive year.
The seventh-seeded Nishikori defeated the wildcard 6-2 6-3 6-4 in just under two hours at Roland Garros only to find himself possibly facing another Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or Germany’s Peter Gojowczyk in the second round.
“I’m happy with my tennis,” Nishikori said. “The third set wasn’t so easy because my opponent got more aggressive, but little by little I got better.”
In his first meeting with the 22-year-old Frenchman, Nishikori breezed through the first two sets as Halys committed 28 unforced errors.
But the 29-year-old, twice a quarter-finalist at Roland Garros, was forced to fight back from a 3-1 deficit in the third set, breaking back in the eighth game before decisively closing out the match.
“It was tough of course, it takes time to read someone’s moves on the court,” Nishikori said. “But between his many mistakes and my play going well, the first and second sets went smoothly.”
There was sad news for those looking to assess the talent of the much-rated 18-year-old Canadian, Felix Auger-Aliassime who has withdrawn his entry after consulting a doctor.
The teenager, who reached the final of the Lyons 250 event last week, struggled with a groin injury. He probably should have retired but refused to do so and is now paying the price for that dedication.
“Obviously I didn’t feel great in the final….I was just trying to finish the match. We were waiting to get some exams done in Paris, we went this morning and they weren’t in favour of me playing,” the youngster said on making his announcement. “After that we made the decision of pulling out.”
But while the French have to wait another year, Britons can expect him to play the grass court season as Auger-Aliassime says he will be fit for it. “I’m at peace knowing that I will be ready for the grass season,” he added.