Paris: Roger Federer marked his return to Roland Garros after a four-year absence with a 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 win over Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego on Sunday and said he had “missed playing in Paris so much”.
Federer, the 2009 champion in Paris, will face German lucky loser Oscar Otte for a place in the third round.
The 20-time major winner hadn’t played the tournament since 2015 when he reached the quarter-finals.
However, on Sunday, it was as if the 37-year-old had never been away as he swept to victory in one hour 41 minutes on a rebuilt and packed Court Philippe Chatrier.
It was his 60th successive first round win at a Grand Slam. “I missed it so much so thanks for the welcome,” said Federer.
I missed it so much so thanks for the welcome. I felt great playing on this court. It looks great and attractive, so congratulations to everyone involved.
“I felt great playing on this court. It looks great and attractive, so congratulations to everyone involved.
“Hopefully I can play here again for my next match.”
Federer broke serve five times and fired 36 winners past 24-year-old Sonego, the world No. 73 who made the quarter-finals at the Monte Carlo Masters this year after qualifying.
“Two breaks in the first set was very important for me and when I was leading 4-0 I could take more risks, be more aggressive,” said the third seed.
“I know that I can play very well on clay and I am very happy to win in straight sets.”
Rising Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas moved into the second round on Sunday with a comfortable straight-sets win over Maximilian Marterer on Court Philippe Chatrier.
The 20-year-old sixth seed, a semi-finalist at the Australian Open earlier this year, brushed aside German Marterer 6-2, 6-2, 7-6 (7/4).
Tsitsipas raced into a 2-0 lead and edged a third-set tiebreak to see off an opponent who reached the fourth round in Paris last year.
“It was a difficult first match ... In the tiebreak I managed to play like I did in the first two sets,” said Tsitsipas, who was playing on the Roland Garros show court for the first time.
German fifth seed and reigning Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber saw her hopes of a career Grand Slam ended by Russian teenager Anastasia Potapova. Fifth-seeded Wimbledon champion Kerber slumped to a 6-4, 6-2 defeat to 18-year-old Potapova who was making her French Open debut.
“I had a lot of confidence and I have to thank my coach for that,” said 81st-ranked Potapova who hit 28 winners past her German opponent.
Kerber, 31, has now lost six times in the French Open first round.
The German left-hander had come into Roland Garros carrying a right ankle injury which forced her to pull out of the Italian Open and retire from her second round tie in Madrid.
Garbine Muguruza, the 2016 champion, fired down her serve shortly after 11am local time to christen the new court during her first round match against American Taylor Townsend in front of a 75%-filled stadium — a rarity for a French Open curtain raiser.
The Spaniard carved out a 5-7 6-2 6-2 win in the semi-sunken 5,000-seater arena, which has been constructed with a slick combination of glass and metal.
The court is surrounded by greenhouses featuring rare and tropical plants, giving fans and players a cocooning feel at the east end of Roland Garros.
With two 70-metre long structures stretching along the east and west stands and a couple of 40-metre long enclosures connected to the north and south stands around the concourses, the stadium has a view onto the botanical collections.
“It’s a double experience, it’s not just about sports, you can take the time to see the plants before watching a match. The whole thing is really pleasant and relaxing,” said Jean-Pierre, a 50-year-old spectator who declined to give his last name.
There was, however, no time to stroll around for 19th seed Muguruza, who was offered stiff resistance on a court named after former women’s tennis pioneer Simonne Mathieu who became a leading figure in the resistance during World War II.