Photo: Paul ZimmerNovak Djokovic (SRB)
DAY 2: Novak Djokovic wasn’t at his very best at Roland Garros on Monday, but that didn’t stop the world No. 1 recording a comprehensive 76(3) 63 61 victory over Potito Starace in the first round.
And Djokovic’s counterpart in the women’s event, Victoria Azarenka, also avoided an early upset although she needed three sets to do so, coming from behind to defeat Alberta Brianti 67(6) 64 62 in an error strewn display.
Azarenka was in serious danger of becoming the first ever women’s No. 1 seed to crash out in the first round at Roland Garros, but she shrugged off 60 errors to eventually find her range and set up a second round meeting with Dinah Pfizenmaier.
Having lost the first set, Azarenka trailed 4-0 in the second and Brianti had a break point for a 5-0 lead. If the Italian had converted it’s hard to see how the reigning Australian Open champion would have come back, but she didn’t and the rest is history.
“Bad days happen,” said Azarenka. “Unfortunately today I had way more mistakes than I usually do, but it happens sometimes. The first match, they're not easy. But in the end of the day I still won the match, I manage to go through those 60 mistakes and still win the match. I think that's pretty good statistics.”
Defending champion Li Na began where she left off in 2011 by claiming a routine 62 61 triumph against Sorana Cirstea. There were also wins for Agnieszka Radwanska, Jelena Jankovic, Marion Bartoli, Flavia Penneta and Dominika Cibulkova, while Sabine Lisicki and Roberta Vinci were both first round casualties.
Djokovic off and running
Djokovic is bidding to become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four major titles at the same time, and he took one step closer to achieving that feat with his straight sets win against Starace.
It was the perfect first round workout for Djokovic as his opponent, who played aggressively and without fear in the early exchanges, challenged him in the first set before the Serb’s class shone through in the second and third. He wrapped up victory in just over two hours on Court Philippe Chatrier.
“I didn't expect an easy match, that's for sure,” said Djokovic, who extended his Grand Slam winning streak to 22 matches. “He is a specialist for clay. I have seen him in the past couple of years. He gave a lot of trouble to the top players on this surface.
“So I tried to be aggressive on the court and take my chances. At the start, I was still trying to find the rhythm and movement on the court. And he obviously played a very good first set. But when I look at it now, after the match is over, maybe it was good for me to have the tough first set and try to find the good control and rhythm and movement on the court.”
Djokovic’s quest to land the only major title that has so far eluded him continues against Blaz Kavcic in the second round. The Slovenian recorded an excellent 76(2) 63 67(4) 63 win over former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt in his opening match.
Roger Federer, who is in the same half of the draw as Djokovic, got his campaign off to the perfect start by defeating Tobias Kamke 62 75 63. The 16-time Grand Slam champion now faces Adrian Ungur, who upset David Nalbandian 63 57 64 75 in the first round.
“They're never easy, those first rounds,” said Federer, who is playing at his 50th straight Grand Slam. “Last thing you want is to go down a set or getting in a tough situation, but I was able to stay ahead in the first set. I had bits of ups and downs on my serve, but overall I'm happy I'm through.
“That’s what I look at in the end. Sometimes you have to come through when you're not playing your very best. I missed a few too many shots, but I was always in the lead and could afford to do those. So I’m happy with today's match.”
Federer hasn’t lost in the first round at a major since Roland Garros in 2003, and this match against Kamke proved to be his 233rd Grand Slam win, equalling a record held by Jimmy Connors.
“It's a huge record, me making it,” said Federer. “I had not realised. I did not know beforehand. But I'm very happy, because Jimmy Connors was a huge champion, still is. So it's a great pleasure.”
It was a good day for French fans following the men’s event as they saw five of their players - Gilles Simon, Michael Llodra, Florent Serra, Arnaud Clement and Paul-Henri Mathieu - make it through to the second round. John Isner and Milos Raonic were also on target on Monday.
Follow all action from Paris on the official tournament website: RolandGarros.com