Friday, December 3, 2021

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Federer dazzles on French Open return

Roger Federer sauntered through his French Open return with a straight-set win over Uzbekistan’s Denis Istomin.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion had not played at Roland Garros since 2019 and was playing his first match at a major in 16 months after a knee injury.

But the legendary Swiss, 39, played smoothly and confidently as he won 6-2 6-4 6-3 to the delight of fans.

Federer was the star attraction in the men’s singles on the second day of the clay-court Grand Slam, reintroducing himself to the top level after missing the past three majors.

The Swiss, who turns 40 in August, was playing in a Grand Slam for the first time since the 2020 Australian Open semi-finals, having needed two knee operations during the pandemic.

Expectations of a deep run at Roland Garros have been dampened by Federer, who said he is focusing on building up his form and fitness to peak at next month’s Wimbledon.

Yet he looked in majestic form in the first match of what is only his second appearance on the Paris clay since 2015.

“I’m very happy. It was a good performance. I just felt overall much clearer, much better than I did in Geneva,” said Federer, who wrapped up the first set in 23 minutes, going on to secure victory in one hour and 33 minutes without facing a break point.

As well as converting five of his 13 break points, the Swiss hit 48 winners and won 80% of first-serve points in an impressive all-round performance.

“In a way I like this situation, that I don’t know what’s next, how my next match will be,” said Federer.

“I take it round by round, match by match. I think it’s going to help me, with the way I go about it.”

Meanwhile, Russian second seed Daniil Medvedev ended his misery at Roland Garros as he beat Alexander Bublik for his first win on the Paris clay.

Medvedev, 25, won 6-3 6-3 7-5 against Kazakhstan’s Bublik, ending a run of four successive defeats in round one.

Elsewhere in the men’s singles draw on Monday, Croatia’s Marin Cilic set up a second-round meeting with Federer following a 7-6 (8-6) 6-1 6-2 win against Frenchman Arthur Rinderknech.

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