Roger Federer marked his return to Grand Slam action with an emphatic straight-sets win over fellow veteran Denis Istomin in the opening round of the French Open.
Federer – featuring in his first Grand Slam tournament for 487 days – produced a virtuoso display to prevail 6-2 6-4 6-3 in just 93 minutes, to the delight of the 1,000 fans in attendance in Paris.
The Swiss legend made the perfect start to proceedings, breaking the Istomin serve in the opening game, which set the foundations for a dominant first set.
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The 39-year-old was impregnable on his own serve in the early exchanges – landing 18 of his 20 first serves in the opener, at a staggering ratio of 95 per cent.
Federer has only featured sparingly since undergoing knee surgery last year, yet the eighth seed still displayed his trademark artistry and elegance on his return to the Philippe Chatrier Court, monopolising matters from the net.
Istomin was unable to contend with the variation in Federer’s play – the forehand slice was a particularly effective weapon for the 2009 champion, who struck 48 winners en route to victory.
The second set was a tighter affair, although the solitary break of serve in the third game was sufficient for Federer to double his lead, as he closed out set two with three consecutive exchanges at the net, followed by an ace to seal the deal.
Back in business 💪@rogerfederer scores an impressive 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 win over Istomin.#RolandGarros pic.twitter.com/a4YFEjBQXC
Istomin was unable to fashion out any opportunities on the Federer serve, therefore when the irrepressible Swiss broke midway through the set with a crunching cross-court forehand, there was a sense of inevitability about the outcome.
Federer, who had triumphed in all seven of his previous meetings against his Uzbek opponent, continued to dazzle with some sublime groundstrokes, closing out a comprehensive victory to book his place in the second round.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion, who will turn 40 in August, is pitted alongside top seed Novak Djokovic and 13-time winner Rafael Nadal in the top half of the draw, as he bids to become the first man in the open era to win every Grand Slam title twice.
“In a way I like this situation, that I don’t know what’s next, how my next match will be. I don’t even know who I play, to be honest. I take it round by round, match by match. I think it’s going to help me. I’m very happy I won today. It gives me a chance again to test myself on Thursday,” Federer told reporters.
“I hope I can stay healthy from now on forward. I’m quite confident that’s going to stay that way. I’ve also been getting better every month that went by, which has been really positive.”
You did it, @DaniilMedwed 😉#RolandGarros pic.twitter.com/8TnUi28cWX
However, next up for Federer is a tough second-round assignment against former US Open champion Marin Cilic, who cruised past Arthur Rinderknech in three straight sets.
Federer has won nine of his ten meetings against the Croat – the last of which saw the 39-year-old claim his most recent Grand Slam crown at the 2018 Australian Open.
Elsewhere, second seed Daniil Medvedev secured a first win at Roland Garros with a 6-3 7-5 7-5 win against Kazakhstan’s Alexander Bublik.
The 25-year-old Russian ended a run of four consecutive opening-round exits on the Paris clay with victory over Bublik in just under two hours, and following Dominic Thiem’s shock exit on Sunday, there are no Grand Slam champions remaining in his half of the draw.
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