The surroundings looked slightly different but Rafael Nadal was his usual brutal self on a revamped Court Philippe Chatrier as he began his quest for a 12th French Open title on Monday. The Spaniard blasted past German qualifier Yannick Hanfmann 6-2 6-1 6-3 before Novak Djokovic also kicked off his tournament in style with an easy 6-4 6-2 6-2 win over Pole Hubert Hurkacz.
It was not as straightforward for Serena Williams, however, as the veteran American dropped the first set against Russia’s Vitalia Diatchenko before roaring to a 2-6 6-1 6-0 victory.
Caroline Wozniacki became the second former women’s world number one to lose in this year’s first round as the 13th seeded Dane collapsed to a 0-6 6-3 6-3 defeat by Russia’s Veronika Kudermetova in the day’s opener on Chatrier. She joined Germany’s Angelique Kerber who was bundled out by another unheralded Russian, Anastasia Potapova, on Sunday.
The women’s draw lost another Grand Slam champion on day two when Czech Petra Kvitova pulled out with an arm injury before her match against Romania’s Sorana Cirstea.
Nadal has lost only two matches at the claycourt Grand Slam since debuting in 2005 and winning the title.
It would have been the upset of all time if Hanfmann, ranked 180th in the world and playing his first Roland Garros match, had joined Robin Soderling and Djokovic on that tiny list and it never remotely looked like happening.
The Spaniard bristled with energy and menace as he went through his repertoire and, after an unusual amount of claycourt losses in the build-up to the tournament, looked razor sharp.
“I don’t see any difference playing tennis here,” Nadal said of the sweeping changes to the main show court which was ripped apart after his final victory over Dominic Thiem last year.
He will face another qualifier named Yannick from Germany in round two, this time Yannick Maden.
Djokovic’s match against 44th-ranked Hurkacz looked a much tougher proposition as he began his attempt to become the first man in the professional era to hold all four Grand Slam titles for a second time. He was clinical though and after breaking serve in the opening game he floated through to a second-round clash against Swiss Henri Laaksonen.
“A break of serve in the first game gave me wings and relaxed me a bit so I could just start off in the best possible fashion,” the world number one said.
Williams, who has fallen agonisingly short of winning her 24th Grand Slam title and matching Margaret Court, since returning from having a baby, looked understandably rusty after playing only one competitive match since March.
For a while it looked as though a repeat of her 2012 first-round loss to Virgine Razzano was possible, but she rattled off the last nine games to sweep past her 83rd-ranked opponent.
Two men’s shocks saw Russian Daniil Medvedev, seeded 12th, surrender a two-set lead to lose to French doubles specialist Pierre-Hugues Herbert while Canadian Denis Shapovalov, the 20-year-old 20th seed, lost to German Jan-Lennard Struff.
Stan Wawrinka, the 2015 champion, and last year’s runner-up Dominic Thiem both went through unscathed.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga leads good day for French men
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga led a home charge into the second round of the French Open on Monday, beating Germany’s Peter Gojowczyk in four sets to book a standout clash with Japan’s Kei Nishikori.
Tsonga, down at 82 in the ATP rankings after missing seven months of last year because of knee surgery, delighted the home fans with a 7-6(4) 6-1 4-6 6-3 victory.
In-form Benoit Paire, fresh from winning the Lyon title on Saturday, beat Marius Copil of Romania, also in four sets, while Gilles Simon, seeded 26th, overcame Sergiy Stakhovsky.
The standout result, however, was Pierre-Hugues Herbert coming back from two sets down to knock out young Russian 12th seed Daniil Medvedev. Herbert and Paire face each other next.
“It’s 100 percent a French match, which is never easy, but whatever happens I’m very happy he won in the first round, and I’m very happy to play with him in the second,” Paire said.
After missing last year Tsonga, who slumped to 262 in the rankings last November, but won the Montpellier title in February, said it was great to be back, especially with the Roland Garros complex having undergone a radical makeover.
“It’s been two years I hadn’t played here. It’s fantastic and Roland Garros has really changed, so for us players everything has been transformed positively, it’s great,” said the 34-year-old who trails Nishikori 5-3 in their head-to-head record.
“It’s been a long time, and I’m very happy to be back. I’m approaching Roland Garros always in the same manner. I’m putting myself under pressure, and I need to revitalise things a bit more and to let my tennis play.”
Wildcard Corentin Moutet, 20, also made it through, beating qualifier Alexey Vatutin.
The only French woman to win on Monday was 16-year-old wildcard Diane Parry, who beat Vera Lapko.