PARIS (Reuters) - The familiar sound of sliding feet on red Parisian brick dust ushered in the 112th French Open on a cool and blustery Sunday with several former champions keen to make an early mark on the year’s second grand slam tournament.
World number one Serena Williams, looking for her first singles title at Roland Garros since 2002, was opening her campaign with a first career meeting against Georgia’s Anna Tatishvili, mindful of her first-round debacle last year.
Since her defeat by Virginie Razzano 12 months ago the American has been virtually unstoppable and arrived in the French capital on a 24-match winning streak.
Swiss Roger Federer, who like Williams only has one French title to his name despite reigning over men’s tennis, was also scheduled to get some dust on the soles of his sneakers with a first round match against Spanish qualifier Pablo Carreno-Busta.
Federer, appearing at his 54th consecutive major, took advantage of Rafa Nadal’s early exit to lift the Coupe des Mousquetaires in 2009 and is seeded to meet the Spaniard in the final, although there are many pitfalls to avoid before that for the 17-times grand slam champion.
Carreno-Busta, 21, has form on the dust this year and Federer will be wary of a player schooled in the claycourt arts.
Serbia’s Ana Ivanovic, whose career has struggled to live up to the heights of 2008 when she won the French Open and became world number one, served up a lunchtime aperitif for a half-full Chatrier show court, avoiding an early exit despite a mid-match wobble against Petra Martic.
Ivanovic, the 14th seed, spent the first part of the match wrapped up in a long-sleeve top as temperatures struggled to rise under grey skies but eventually raised the temperature of the fans with a 6-1 3-6 6-3 victory.
Last year’s beaten women’s finalist Sara Errani made short work of Dutchwoman Arantxa Rus, the Italian winning 6-1 6-2 with time to spare for a spot of lunch.
Several old stagers were also in action on Sunday with former men’s world number one Lleyton Hewitt, level with Federer on 56 grand slam appearances, ready for a battle royal with French hope Gilles Simon, the 15th seed.
Venus Williams, with only one title in the last three years and now a fading force, faces Poland’s Urszula Radwanska, while fellow American James Blake, 33, opened the challenge of the American men against Serbian Viktor Troicki.
After last year’s weather interruptions that forced the tournament to extend to a third Monday, organisers, who on Friday confirmed plans for a modernisation of Roland Garros including roof coverings, were hoping for better luck.
The first two days are forecast to stay dry before rain showers start sweeping in.
Editing by Mark Meadows