Federer equals record, Azarenka has close shave
Reuters: Roger Federer’s bid for a record 17th major tennis title began with another landmark on Monday, when he won his 233rd match at a grand slam event, equalling the achievement of Jimmy Connors.
Federer beat German Tobias Kamke 6-2 7-5 6-3 in the first round of the French Open and can surpass American Connors’s professional-era record by continuing his progress here.
Women’s world number one Victoria Azarenka was lucky to advance after being five points away from defeat against Italian Alberta Brianti in their first-round match, but turned the tables to scrape through 6-7 6-4 6-2.
Novak Djokovic had a calm start to his bid to complete his grand slam collection and become the first man in 43 years to hold all four titles at the same time.
The world number one was taken to a first-set tiebreak but otherwise was never stretched on the Roland Garros clay by Italian Potito Starace and won 7-6 6-3 6-1.
Serbian Djokovic will next play Slovenian Blaz Kavcic. He had a hard-fought, 7-6 6-3 6-7 6-3 win over former U.S. Open and Wimbledon champion Lleyton Hewitt, who needed a wildcard to get into the main draw of the French this time after a run of injuries.
Federer, the 2009 champion at Roland Garros and runner-up four times to Rafa Nadal, hit some wayward shots against the 78th-ranked Kamke but was happy to get through in straight sets.
“They are never easy, those first rounds,” the Swiss world number three told a news conference. “I missed a few too many shots but I was in the lead so I could afford to do those.”
Asked about matching Connors’s record, Federer said he had not been aware of it before the match.
“But I’m very happy, because Jimmy Connors was a huge champion, still is, so it’s a great pleasure,” he added.
“That (record) is a big one, because (it means) longevity. I have been so successful for such a long time and to already tie that record, (at) 30 years old is pretty incredible, so I’m very happy.”
Federer will now meet Romania’s Adrian Ungur who beat Argentine David Nalbandian 6-3 5-7 6-4 7-5.
Australian Open champion Azarenka, who would have been the first top-seeded woman to lose in the opening round, hit 60 unforced errors in her two hours 16 minutes on Philippe Chatrier court.
“I think that says it all,” the Belarussian said. “Bad days happen.”
She was happy, though, that a shoulder injury which forced her to pull out of the Italian Open nearly two weeks ago had healed.
“It’s much better, the pain went away,” she said. “But I didn’t have much time to prepare.”
Defending champion Li Na raced through her opening match, thrashing Romanian Sorana Cirstea 6-2 6-1 in 58 minutes.
Li, who became the first player from an Asian nation to win a grand slam singles title here last year, said she was still smarting from her narrow defeat by Maria Sharapova in the Italian Open final eight days ago.
“The final in Rome is still killing me. After the final I told everyone ‘don’t talk to me about tennis (for) like three days’,” she said.
Fifteenth seed Dominika Cibulkova was also swift in beating French wildcard Kristina Mladenovic 6-2 6-1 and will play American Vania King in the second round.
Russian Vera Zvonareva, the 11th seed, pulled out before her first-round match with a shoulder injury, while Spaniard Feliciano Lopez, the men’s 15th seed, lasted 18 minutes of play against Frenchman Florent Serra before withdrawing with a muscle injury.