No easy starts for top guns at the French Open
PARIS There will be no gentle start for the favorites at the French Open starting this weekend, with nine-time winner Rafa Nadal and defending champion Novak Djokovic on a semi-final collision course.
LONDON They walked on to Court One as fellow 32-year-olds, but that's where the similarity between Roger Federer and Paolo Lorenzi ended as the Swiss began his pursuit of a record eighth Wimbledon title with a 6-1 6-1 6-3 romp on Tuesday.
A year after leaving the All England Club as a shell-shocked second-round loser, Federer was back to his sublime best as he teased and tormented Italian Lorenzi with a heady mix of laser-sighted serves and venomous volleys.
The exhibition certainly won the approval of his coach Stefan Edberg, who whipped off his sunglasses soon after the start to get a better look at the elegant winners flowing off Federer's racket.
After squandering five match points on the Lorenzi serve, the fourth seed finished it off with his ninth ace to set up a second-round meeting with either Frenchman Julien Benneteau or Luxembourg's Gilles Muller.
The result earned Lorenzi the dubious distinction of never having won a grand slam match in 13 attempts.
But if Lorenzi thought his conqueror would spare him a shred of sympathy, he was left disappointed on that front, too.
"I did not know about his record to be honest ... but as for feeling sorry (for him) ... I've put in my share of hard work and you feel like you deserve it, always," grinned the 17-time grand slam champion, who boasts a 269-43 win-loss record at the majors.
"I'm here to win the tournament," he added.
Just how much the father of four wants to hold aloft the Challenge Cup again was evident at the end of the first set, when he fired a scorching ace on set point - straight into the belly of an unfortunate linesman.
There was no apology, no raised racket; just a steely glare that suggested a single-mindedness in pursuit of yet another title as he approaches the twilight of his phenomenal career.
Seven weeks short of his 33rd birthday, Federer knows that time is fast running out to win the trophies that really matter.
"I feel 24. I can't believe how old I am already. The tennis life goes by in a flash," he said.
Tuesday's match was certainly over in a flash. Apart from trying to preserve energy for the greater challenges that lie ahead, when he will inevitably run into younger, fitter and hungrier rivals, Federer also used the occasion to fine-tune his volleying skills.
The Swiss's delectable touches at the net would have left Edberg purring and Federer confident that his decision to hire one of the serve-and-volley greats will pay dividends over the next fortnight.
"It's clearly a pleasure having him on my side, getting advice and support - it's very inspiring and motivating," the Swiss said.
"I remember how I played in 2001 when I made it to the quarters here. I serve and volleyed 80 percent on the first serve, 30 to 50 percent on the second serve. It was just normal. I even did some in 2003 when I first won here. Then every year I started doing less because the game started changing on the tour.
"(So Stefan is) just reinforcing the concept that it is possible, that I can actually do it."
(Editing by David Goodman)
PARIS Czech Petra Kvitova said it was a "dream come true" to be included in the French Open draw on Friday having recovered from being stabbed during a burglary at her home in December.
VIRGINIA WATER, England Adopting the spiderman-style crouch to read the greens made famous by Colombian Camilo Villegas on the U.S. Tour, Germany's Max Kieffer powered his way into contention at the BMW PGA Championship on Friday.