| Serena Williams in action against Alize Lim, on Sunday. (Getty Images) |
Paris: Roger Federer spent as little time as possible on court on the opening day of the French Open on Sunday, beating Lukas Lacko 6-2 6-4 6-2 before returning to his parental duties on Mother’s Day in Paris.
Serena Williams, the No.1 seed and overwhelming favourite to retain the women’s title, needed time to find her rhythm against France’s Alize Lim before winning 6-2, 6-1. The American’s older sister, Venus, also reached the second round in straight sets.
Watched by his wife Mirka and his twin girls, Federer moved gently through the gears against the shaggy-haired Slovakian under grey skies on the Philippe Chatrier show court.
The former champion, who has returned to something close to his best form after a disappointing 2013, admitted a trace of fear before the year’s second grand slam.
“I wasn’t nervous going into the match,” said Federer, 32.
“It’s more just like those hints of fear, maybe yesterday, maybe this morning at one point, just for like five seconds ‘Oh, I really hope I don’t have to pack my bags today’, that kind of feeling.”
But he had little to fear from Lacko and by mid-afternoon he was once again in a position to help Mirka look after their newly-born twin boys.
“Everything is great,” Federer said.
Serena, who warmed up for the match against her training partner wearing a blazer suit, committed 23 unforced errors in the first set. She allowed the local favourite two break points in the fifth game but the American always had too much power.
With the first set under her belt, Serena tightened up her game but relaxed again at the death when she wasted four match points, one with a double fault.
“I was in really top form last year on the clay, this year I’m just going day by day. I have to say I don’t feel as much pressure on myself as I did last year,” said Serena who is bidding for a third French Open.
Venus Williams, wearing a self-designed dress that added splashes of colour to a grey day, showed she is still a force at the age of 33 by taking, and returning, all that Belinda Bencic could throw at her in winning 6-4 6-1.
The 17-year-old Bencic, coached by Martina Hingis’s mother, traded low, hard blows with the American from the back of the court. But Williams had too much experience for the Swiss and demonstrated that her powers of recovery remain undimmed.
“I’ve not played a lot in the last couple of months so I have to try to focus,” said Venus who may meet Serena in the third round.”It was definitely good to try and get some rhythm.”
Sixth seed Tomas Berdych beat Peter Polansky of Canada in straight sets while Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the 13th seed, overcame fellow Frenchman Edouard Roger-Vasselin 7-6(4) 7-5 6-2.
Milos Raonic and Agnieszka Radwanska shook off the morning chill to ease into the second round.
Poland’s Radwanska, the third seed, won 6-3 6-0 after the first seven games against Zhang Shuai went against serve. Canadian Raonic, seeded eighth, beat feisty Australian Nick Kyrgios 6-3 7-6 (1) 6-3.
Wearing a floral print dress perhaps in anticipation of more spring-like temperatures, Radwanska took a while to get into her rhythm and both women struggled badly with their service.
But the Pole eventually held for 5-3, after saving three break points, and then broke the Chinese to take the set. The second set was a rout, however.
“Every two-set match is great in a two-week tournament. It’s important that I spent only one hour on court,” added Radwanska who played with a heavily strapped thigh.
Raonic pushed Novak Djokovic in the Rome semi-finals before losing in three sets to the eventual champion and he eased through the first set against Kyrgios.
The eighth seed was broken midway through the second but recovered immediately, leaving his 19-year-old opponent to hurl his racket to the court.
The Australian got increasingly frustrated through the second-set tiebreak, before Raonic took it 7-1. Raonic served out to win the third set on his third match point. “I felt very good,” said Raonic. “In the first round you go in not knowing exactly how things are going to play out, and I was able to, when it mattered, put forward the right attitude and the right level of tennis.”