Tennis big guns overcome hiccups at French Open

Only 25 out of 56 first-round matches were completed before the rain stopped. However, Roger Federer, Venus Williams and Jelena Jankovic all ran into trouble on Monday before emerging unscathed to kick-start their French Open campaigns.


REUTERS - Roger Federer, Venus Williams and Jelena Jankovic all ran into a spot of bother on Monday before emerging unscathed to kick-start their French Open campaigns.


Williams suffered the biggest scare of the trio when she looked flat-footed for much of the second set before rescuing her title aspirations with a 6-3 4-6 6-2 first-round victory over Israel's Tzipora Obziler.


Men's world number one Federer has had little to shout about this season, winning only one minor title in 2008, and overcame a slight early wobble to ease to a 6-4 6-4 6-3 win over lofty American Sam Querrey.


Williams's chances of joining sister Serena, the only former champion in the women's draw, in the second round looked to be in jeopardy when she allowed Obziler to reel off six successive games.


From 6-3 4-1 up, Venus's shots started to malfunction and she suddenly found herself a break down in the decider.


However, Obziler, the oldest woman in the draw at 35 and whose greatest achievement at a grand slam were a handful of second-round appearances, simply did not possess the firepower to topple the eighth seed.


"Sometimes tennis isn't always won as quick as you want," summed up Venus, who dodged back into the locker room just as rain started belting down on Philippe Chatrier Court.


"I think she really played some good tennis. She made some good shots and fought really hard for that second set. It was just important to close it out in the third."


Last year's semi-finalist Jankovic threw away a 3-0 lead in the opening set and almost allowed a Roland Garros debutante, ranked 86th in the world, to get the better of her.


After being given the run-around in the first set, the third seed asserted her authority to seal a 7-6 6-2 win over Romania's Monica Niculescu.




"I had a little bit of trouble in the first set," Jankovic told reporters. "I was up 3-0 and then the girl played some great shots. She hit quite good dropshots and I got a little bit confused, because I didn't know her game, I didn't know how she plays, and I didn't know what to expect from her.


"But then I got used to her and was a little bit better."


Federer also needed a little time to assess the strengths and weaknesses of his big-serving 1.98 metres opponent.


Querrey rattled Federer early on by breaking the Swiss in the fourth game but that was as good as it got for the American.


Federer, winner of 12 grand slam titles but still without the French Open trophy, polished off a solid win when Querrey floated the ball long.


"It's sort of a nerve-wracking first set. Once I got settled I played a little bit more better," the top seed said.


"I'm sort of relieved getting through the first one and I think from now on it should get a little bit easy."


Guillermo Coria and Richard Gasquet suffered heartache on Monday but for completely different reasons.


While Coria's comeback on the grand slam stage after an absence of almost two years ended with a 5-7 6-4 6-1 6-4 defeat by 12th seed Tommy Robredo, Gasquet never even made it to the court.


The French number one was forced to quit with a knee injury minutes before his match against compatriot Florent Serra.


Gasquet's withdrawal means the claycourt major has lost its top two local players after Australian Open runner-up Jo-Wilfried Tsonga pulled out last week with a knee problem.


Triple champion Rafael Nadal had been expected to begin his title defence later on Monday but the Spaniard was left staring out of the locker room window as the showers refused to let up.

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning