Third seed Novak Djokovic upped his game considerably to breeze into the third round of the French Open today.
The Serbian was far from at his best in beating Denis Gremelmayr in four sets in his opening match, but in his 80-minute, 6-1 6-1 6-3 thrashing of Miguel Angel Lopez Jaen, he showed why he has been tipped to challenge for the title this year.
The 21-year-old, who is the first player through to the third round in the men’s draw, will face either Wayne Odesnik or Hyung-Taik Lee next.
Earlier, Spanish pair David Ferrer and Juan Carlos Ferrero experienced contrasting fortunes in their first-round matches.
While Ferrer, the fifth seed, claimed a straightforward 6-3 6-4 6-3 win over Belgium’s Steve Darcis, 2003 winner Ferrero was forced to retire against Marcos Daniel.
The 23rd seed had won the opening set on a tie-break and was level at 2-2 in the second set when he withdrew with a leg injury.
“I’ve suffered this pain for quite a while but it’s a bit of a strange problem because scans and X-rays don’t show anything,” said Ferrero, who started feeling the injury towards the end of the first set.
“At the moment, I don’t exactly know what the problem is. Doctors tell me they know and they told me they could cure it but it still hurts – they use words I don’t understand.
“It’s a bit of a shame because I feel good with my tennis.”
Elsewhere in the first round, 21st seed Radek Stepanek eased to a 6-2 6-4 6-1 victory over France’s Gilles Simon and 25th seed Lleyton Hewitt beat Nicolas Mahut, another home favourite, 6-4 6-2 6-4.
Hewitt, a two-time major winner, has never gone beyond the quarter-finals at the French Open, but the Australian remains a dark horse in most grand slam events he appears in.
“I really stepped up when I needed to, especially on my return of serve,” said the former world number one.
“It is good to get through in tough conditions out there.”
Fabrice Santoro and Marc Gicquel gave the French something to cheer about by seeing off Evgeny Korolev and Viktor Troicki, in three and four sets respectively.
Russian duo Mikhail Youzhny and Dmitry Tursunov had few problems as they both secured straights-sets victories.
Youzhny, the 15th seed, was too good for Benjamin Becker as he cruised to a 6-1 6-3 7-6 (7/4) win and 30th seed Tursunov beat another German, Daniel Brands, 6-2 6-4 7-5.
Marat Safin, a two-time grand slam winner and a semi-finalist here in 2002, recovered from losing the first set against Monaco’s Jean-Rene Lisnard to prevail 6-7 (5/7) 6-1 6-3 6-2.
Safin is a crowd favourite at Roland Garros but his ranking has slipped to 73rd in the world after a couple of lean seasons dogged by injury.
“I’m still playing, still enjoying it, even though I’m in a tough position,” said the 28-year-old Russian, who has threatened to quit tennis before.
“A couple of months ago, I was almost out of the top 100. But why retire when everything is functioning? I don’t think I will be retiring any time soon.”
Safin meets fourth seed Nikolay Davydenko next in a mouth-watering tie.
Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen, the 26th seed, completed his 2-6 6-3 6-4 6-3 win over Marc Lopez, of Spain.
Nieminen had been two sets to one ahead when rain forced their match to be suspended yesterday evening.
Jurgen Melzer, Juan Ignacio Chela, Mardy Fish, Martin Vassallo Arguello, Jiri Vanek and Marin Cilic were other players to advance to the second round today.