Roger Federer described as “pretty incredible” his achievement in equalling Jimmy Connors’ record of grand slam match wins at the French Open today.
The 16-time slam champion’s 6-2 7-5 6-3 first-round victory over Tobias Kamke was his 233rd in main draw matches – the same mark Connors reached at the US Open in 1992.
Federer said: “I think that’s a big one, because that was longevity. Jimmy is obviously one of the greats of all time, and was around for 20 years.
“I love the big tournaments. I have been so successful for such a long time and to already tie that record, at 30 years old, is pretty incredible, so I’m very happy.”
Federer also revealed Connors’ record of 109 tournament titles is one he has in his sights, although he is a long way off at the moment on 74.
He said: “Is it possible for me to equal Connors’ record? One hundred and ten - that would be a round figure. That would be incredible. But that’s a dream.”
Federer was not at his best today and had to fight back from a break down in the second set, but he was content with the performance as a first step.
He said: “They’re never easy, those first rounds. But overall I’m happy I’m through. Sometimes you have to come through when you’re not playing your very best. I missed a few too many shots, but I was always in the lead and could afford to do those.”
In the second round Federer will face Romania’s Adrian Ungur, who defeated former Wimbledon finalist David Nalbandian 6-3 5-7 6-4 7-5 today.
World number one Novak Djokovic began his campaign for a fourth successive grand slam title with a 7-6 (7/3) 6-3 6-1 victory over Italy’s Potito Starace.
He, too, was shaky in the early stages and cut a frustrated figure for the first set and a half as he struggled to impose himself on world number 97 Starace but, after he finally did break in the fifth game of the second set, the end was fairly swift in coming.
Djokovic said: “I didn’t expect an easy match, that’s for sure. He is a specialist on clay. I have seen him in the past couple of years. He gave a lot of trouble to the top players on this surface.
“So I tried to be aggressive on the court and take my chances. At the start, I was still trying to find the rhythm and movement on the court. And he obviously played a very good first set.
“But when I look at it now, after the match is over, maybe it was good for me to have the tough first set.”
Seventh seed Tomas Berdych, a dark horse for the title, began his campaign with a straightforward 6-3 6-4 6-1 victory over Dudi Sela while fellow big hitter Milos Raonic, seeded 19, was equally impressive in seeing off Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo 6-4 6-2 6-2.
Tenth seed John Isner, who has been having a terrific season, eased past Rogerio Dutra Silva of Brazil 6-3 6-4 6-4 but 15th seed Feliciano Lopez lost the first five games to France’s Florent Serra before pulling out with an abdominal injury.
Another first-round loser was Lleyton Hewitt, although it was more remarkable that the Australian was playing in the first place.
Hewitt, now ranked down at 176th in the world, had radical surgery in February to fuse the big toe joint in his left foot that had given him constant pain, and was playing his first match since.
He showed his trademark battling qualities against Slovenian Blaz Kavcic, who now faces Djokovic, before going down 7-6 (7/2) 6-3 6-7 (4/7) 6-3.
Hewitt said: “Obviously moving is going to be totally different, but at least it was nice not to have pain. The last couple of years, every practice, every match has been painful.”
The 31-year-old has already been given a wild card for the AEGON Championships at Queen’s Club in two weeks and must be a virtual shoo-in for the same at the Olympics.
There were three eventful five-set matches today, with 31st seed Kevin Anderson winning his clash against Rui Machado, which had been stopped at 7-7 in the fifth last night, 7-6 (7/2) 6-7 (6/8) 4-6 6-1 11-9.
Unpredictable Latvian Ernests Gulbis battled back from two sets and 5-1 down to level his match against Mikhail Kukushkin only to lose 6-4 7-6 (7/4) 5-7 2-6 6-4, while French veteran Arnaud Clement was involved in a titanic struggle with Alex Bogomolov Jr.
Clement held match point on the Russian’s serve at 6-2 3-6 4-6 7-6 (7/2) 5-4 when Bogomolov Jr was forced to retire because of severe cramp.
Australian Bernard Tomic, the only teenager in the men’s field, won his first main-draw match at Roland Garros with a 7-6 (7/5) 6-3 6-3 victory over Andreas Haider-Maurer to keep on track for a third-round meeting with fourth seed Andy Murray.
On a good day for the seeds, Andreas Seppi, Marcel Granollers, Viktor Troicki and Philipp Kohlschreiber also made it through.