Djokovic untroubled, Federer levels Connors record
Date published :
28 May 2012 - 20:16:54
Novak Djokovic's bid for an historic Grand Slam enjoyed the perfect French Open start on Monday as Roger Federer celebrated his 50th straight major with a record-equalling 233rd Grand Slam win.
But there was a huge scare for women's world number one Victoria Azarenka, who had to fight from a set and 4-0 down to defeat Italian veteran Alberta Brianti to avoid becoming the first top seed ever to lose in the opening round.
Djokovic, bidding to become only the third man to hold all four majors at the same time, and the first in 43 years, eased past Italian claycourt specialist Potito Starace 7-6 (7/3), 6-3, 6-1.
The world number one already has the Wimbledon, US Open and Australian Open crowns under wraps and a first French Open triumph in two weeks' time would make him the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to complete the sweep.
"It's a challenge and something to embrace and to enjoy. It's really too early to talk about getting my hands on the trophy, but it's definitely a goal. Anything is possible," said Djokovic, who next faces Slovenia's Blaz Kavcic.
Djokovic has yet to reach a Paris final, having fallen three times at the semi-final stage.
This year, he is scheduled to meet Federer in the last four.
Federer, the 2009 champion and four times runner-up to Rafael Nadal, endured few problems getting past Germany's Tomas Kamke, the world number 78, winning 6-2, 7-5, 6-3.
The win, achieved on a sixth match point, took him level with Jimmy Connors' 30-year-old record of 233 Grand Slam match wins.
Monday's victory was also his 50th at Roland Garros having made his debut as a wildcard in 1999 where he went down to Australia's Pat Rafter in the first round.
Since that time, he has missed just one Grand Slam -- the 1999 US Open where he failed to qualify.
"It's a big record. Jimmy is obviously one of the greats of all time, and was around for 20 years," said the 16-time Grand Slam title winner, who next faces Adrian Ungur of Romania.
"I have been so successful for such a long time and to already tie that record which is 30 years old is pretty incredible."
Azarenka staged a thrilling recovery to defeat world number 105 Brianti 6-7 (6/8), 6-4, 6-2 and will next face German qualifier Dinah Pfizenmaier.
But for much of her rollercoaster battle with the 32-year-old Brianti, who had never won a match in four previous appearances at Roland Garros, the Belarussian struggled.
Brianti was on the verge of a 5-0 lead in the second set when the Australian Open champion sent down a second serve ace to stay in contention.
That proved to be the significant moment as Azarenka, who finished with 60 unforced errors, reeled off 12 of the last 14 games.
"I started well but my game just collapsed," admitted 22-year-old Azarenka, twice a quarter-finalist in Paris.
"I tried to stay concentrated but I don't know how I got out of it."
Defending champion Li Na of China advanced to the second round with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Romania's Sorana Cirstea, a quarter-finalist in 2009.
"I'll just try my best," Li said, when asked to rate her chances of a successful defence. "It's tough for me to stay at the same level all the time."
Li will face France's Stephanie Foretz Gacon for a place in the last 32.
Polish third seed Agnieszka Radwanska took just 49 minutes to wrap up a 6-1, 6-0 win over Serbia's Bojana Jovanovksi and will take on Venus Williams for a place in the last 32.
French eighth seed Marion Bartoli also went through, beating Czech qualifier Karolina Plizkova 6-3, 6-3.
Vera Zvonareva, the 11th seeded Russian, withdrew with a right shoulder injury while German 12th seed Sabine Lisicki slumped to a 6-4, 6-3 defeat to America's Bethanie Mattek-Sands.
The United States already have 10 women in the second round, their best performance since 2003.