June 1, 2021
PARIS (Reuters) -Roger Federer marked his return to the Grand Slam arena in dazzling fashion with a 6-2 6-4 6-3 first-round defeat of qualifier Denis Istomin at the French Open on Monday.
The 39-year-old Swiss had not played a Grand Slam match since the 2020 Australian Open and had managed only one claycourt match in the build-up to Roland Garros.
But any fears that eighth-seed Federer might suffer an opening round defeat at a Grand Slam for the first time since 2003 were quickly erased as the Swiss outclassed Istomin with a consummate display.
The Uzbek served two double faults in the opening game of the match as Federer took early control and never looked troubled as he went through his usual repertoire of shot-making.
Federer landed 95% of his first serves in a one-sided opening set and although Istomin did offer a little more resistance thereafter he failed to lay a glove on his opponent who appeared in cruise control throughout.
He was applauded warmly by the small Philippe Chatrier crowd who thoroughly enjoyed his 93 minute exhibition.
Federer will be pushed harder in the second round against Croatian Marin Cilic who despite a ranking of 47 represents a dangerous first-week obstacle.
“I mean, a lot to look forward to. To be truthful, I don’t know where I stand,” Federer, who said he had not studied the draw, told reporters.
“Today was a good performance. I hope I can do it again against a different type of opponent on Thursday or whenever.”
Federer, tied with Rafa Nadal on 20 Grand Slam titles, missed last year’s French Open because of a knee injury and is appearing at Roland Garros for only the second time since 2015.
While the Parisian are pleased to see him back, Federer’s eyes appear set more on Wimbledon.
“I mean, look, for me coming back after many months or over a year of rehab, the light at the end of the tunnel or the measuring stick was always can I come back to a good level against good players?” he said.
“I hope Wimbledon is going to be that place. Maybe there’s going to be even something here in Paris. We’ll see.”
(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar)