Roger Federer wins 1st-round match at French Open; Serena Williams also advances

By Steven Wine, AP
Monday, May 24, 2010

Federer beats Luczak in 1st match at French Open

PARIS — Roger Federer lost an argument. His tennis was more persuasive.

Miffed by a line call in his first match as French Open defending champion, Federer quickly regrouped to win the opening set two points later, then went on to beat Peter Luczak 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 Monday.

Top-ranked Serena Williams encountered a stressful situation herself late in the first set, when she erased three break points before going on to beat Stefanie Voegele 7-6 (2), 6-2.

The top-ranked Federer committed only 11 unforced errors, lost just 14 of 64 points on his serve and faced only one break point.

“It’s always important coming back as defending champion trying to get off to a good start,” he said. “It was like a perfect match to get off the French Open campaign, really.”

This is only the second time in nine years that Federer arrived in Paris without a title during the clay season. But the 16-time Grand Slam champion showed no signs of vulnerability against Luczak, an Australian who fell to 0-4 in French Open matches.

Although Federer won at Roland Garros a year ago to complete a career Grand Slam, the role of favorite again goes to four-time champion Rafael Nadal. They could meet in the final.

“I hope I’ll be playing the finals,” Federer said. “If it’s him, it’s perfect.”

Williams, who had lost two of her past three matches heading to Roland Garros, used her serve and aggressive returns to pull out the first set. She hit three service winners late in the tiebreaker and finished with 10 aces.

No. 3-seeded Novak Djokovic, a two-time semifinalist, beat Evgeny Korolev 6-1, 3-6, 6-1, 6-3. Americans Taylor Dent and John Isner also advanced.

The unseeded Dent won a match at Roland Garros for the first time in his 12-year career, beating Nicolas Lapentti 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (3).

“Better late than never, right?” Dent said. “There’s nothing more that Americans love than to come over here and win matches. 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.”

Another American, Michael Yani, lost a match that equaled the longest at the tournament since the tiebreaker was introduced in 1973. Lukas Lacko beat Yani 4-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4), 6-7 (5), 12-10.

The match resumed at 8-all Monday after being suspended overnight because of darkness.

In women’s play, No. 3-seeded Caroline Wozniacki eased past Alla Kudryavtseva 6-0, 6-3. No. 5 Elena Dementieva beat Petra Martic 6-1, 6-1 and No. 11 Li Na defeated Kristina Mladenovic 7-5, 6-3.

With temperatures in the mid-80s on a second successive cloudless day in Paris, Federer lost his cool for only a moment. Speaking to the chair umpire in French and wagging his index finger, he disputed a line call on a Luczak serve, then waved his arms in disgust as he walked back to the baseline.

“He got a bit of a rough call against him, actually,” Luczak said.

A double-fault by Luczak moments later ended the first set, and the match then became a clinic, with a relaxed Federer putting his vast repertoire of shots to full use.

On one point he started behind the baseline, sprinted to chase down a drop shot near the net post, slid into his forehand and flicked it from ankle level crosscourt for a winner. He ended a long rally with a sliced backhand that carried so much spin it bounced back toward the net for another winner, and he raised a finger to acknowledge the cheers.

“If it was anyone else, I’d be getting pretty angry,” Luczak said. “He just had me on a string and just was toying with me at the end. I think he was enjoying it.”

On match point, Federer leaned into a backhand and pulled it at an improbable angle for one last winner, prompting a final “Ahhhhh” from the crowd.

Wozniacki has played the most tennis of anyone on the women’s tour since the start of last year, and she looked sharp against Kudryavtseva, committing only nine unforced errors and missing just 11 first serves. Kudryavtseva lost the first seven games, then won two in a row, but she was unable to stay with Wozniacki in long rallies.

Wozniacki has been bothered by a sore right ankle since mid-April, and the injury forced her to retire from a match in Warsaw last Thursday, but she said it has much improved since.

“It feels pretty good today, actually,” she said. “I’ve had good support in the tape, so I was really happy about that.”

Isner, seeded 17th, lost only 10 points on his serve, never faced a break point and beat Andrey Golubev 6-4, 6-3, 6-2. No. 15 Tomas Berdych and No. 20 Stanislas Wawrinka also won, but No. 27 Feliciano Lopez lost to Julian Reister 6-1, 7-6 (5), 6-2.

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