Roger Federer is back. After a three-year absence, the 2009 champion returned to Roland Garros on Sunday with a straightforward 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 win against Italian Lorenzo Sonego. The Swiss broke five times and hit 36 winners to get off the court in less than two hours.
“Because there has been some pressure in the beginning, obviously some nerves, many people wanted to know how it was going to be for me, how I was going to be back.
“There has been a lot of attention lately with my return. When I started the match, I started it well, so it shows that the pressure is not acting on me,” Federer said.
“I was right away playing well on the centre court here in Roland Garros. The duration of the match wasn’t a problem. No problems with my body before or after the match. And then I have… two-and-a-half days… it’s ideal for me for the start of the tournament.”
Federer missed 2016 Roland Garros because of injury and chose to skip the 2017 and 2018 clay-court swings to prepare for the grass-court season.
But he’s returned to the European swing with success this year, making the quarter-finals in both Madrid and Rome, although he pulled out of the ATP Masters 1000 tournament in Rome because of a leg injury, a decision Federer later described as “precautionary”.
“Now I’m very happy I took that decision, because I enjoyed Madrid, I enjoyed Rome. I’m happy to be here. The reception I got today was crazy, was really nice to see a full stadium for a first round like this. It was a beauty. So I’m very, very happy,” Federer said.
The Swiss won his only Roland Garros title 10 years ago, beating Swede Robin Soderling in the final to complete the Career Grand Slam. He made the quarter-finals in 2015, falling to countryman Stan Wawrinka. Federer will next meet German lucky loser Oscar Otte, who beat Tunisian Malek Jaziri 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-0.
Also in the 37-year-old’s sixteenth of the draw is 17th seed Diego Schwartzman, who battled past Hungarian Marton Fucsovics 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(7), 2-6, 6-2 in three hours and 41 minutes. The Argentine has found his form this month, reaching his first Masters 1000 semi-final in Rome, where he pushed World No. 1 Novak Djokovic to three sets.
Schwartzman, last year’s Rio de Janeiro champion, also beat clay-court stalwart and current World No. 4 Dominic Thiem in straight sets in Buenos Aires this February. The 5’7″ right-hander will next face countryman Leonardo Mayer, who cruised past Czech Jiri Vesely 7-6(3), 6-3, 6-0 in two hours and nine minutes.