Tennis

Federer makes winning Grand Slam return

Eighth seed beats Istomin at Roland Garros in his first match at a Grand Slam since 2020 Australian Open

Making his Grand Slam return after two knee surgeries, Roger Federer kicked off his French Open campaign yesterday with an impressive dismissal of Denis Istomin.

The 39-year-old Swiss great, who is level with Rafael Nadal on 20 Grand Slam singles titles, saw off the Uzbek 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 in just his fourth match of the year.

"It's a great pleasure to return. It was important to have some rehabilitation and lots of training," said the eighth-seeded Federer, who was playing his first Grand Slam match since losing to Novak Djokovic in last year's Australian Open semi-finals.

Federer went through his usual repertoire of shot-making, including a string of early drop shots, and was playing in cruise control throughout the one-sided contest.

He was applauded warmly by the small Philippe Chatrier crowd who thoroughly enjoyed his 93-minute exhibition.

His second-round opponent will be former US Open winner Marin Cilic, who beat French wildcard Arthur Rinderknech 7-6 (8/6), 6-1, 6-2.

Clay is hardly Federer's favourite surface, but he is hoping that his second French Open campaign in six years will help him gear up for Wimbledon.

Clay is also second seed Daniil Medvedev's least favourite surface, but the Russian finally won a match at Roland Garros at the fifth attempt by seeing off Kazakhstan's Alexander Bublik 6-3, 6-3, 7-5 yesterday.

Despite arriving in Paris having lost in the first round during all four of his previous main draw appearances, the lanky Russian mastered his initial nerves and turned in a dominant display.

While Medvedev held on for victory, fourth seed Dominic Thiem blew a two-set lead to be dumped out by Spanish veteran Pablo Andujar.

The 35-year-old Andujar staged a remarkable comeback to defeat the two-time Roland Garros runner-up 4-6, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 after nearly 4½ hours.

Another marathon match saw Italian teenager Jannik Sinner, the men's 18th seed, save a match-point against home favourite Pierre-Hugues Herbert to win 6-1, 4-6, 6-7 (4/7), 7-5, 6-4.

In the women's draw, defending champion Iga Swiatek started her title defence with a straight-set win over her good friend Kaja Juvan on her 20th birthday.

BIRTHDAY VICTORY

The Pole, who powered to a surprise triumph last year at Roland Garros, won 6-0, 7-5 against the Slovenian.

"You never know what's going to happen and I've never been a defending champion, even in the smallest tournaments, so I didn't know what to expect," said Swiatek, who was presented with flowers on court after the match for her birthday.

Elsewhere, sixth seed Bianca Andreescu crashed out after losing to Slovenia's world No. 85 Tamara Zidansek 6-7(1/7), 7-6(7/2), 9-7.

Jelena Ostapenko, the 2017 champion, lost to fourth seed Sofia Kenin 6-4, 4-6, 6-3. - AFP, REUTERS

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