Spain’s Rafael Nadal. Picture: AFP PHOTO/GABRIEL BOUYS
Spain’s Rafael Nadal. Picture: AFP PHOTO/GABRIEL BOUYS

Paris — Rafael Nadal launched his pursuit of a record 10th French Open title in convincing fashion, while defending champion Novak Djokovic eased to victory under the gaze of new coach Andre Agassi.

Reigning women’s champion Garbine Muguruza began her Roland Garros defence with a straight-sets triumph over 2010 winner Francesca Schiavone.

Nadal, who was forced to withdraw before the third round in 2016 with a wrist injury, brushed aside 45th-ranked Benoit Paire 6-1 6-4 6-1 inside two hours. "I’m very happy to be back here after what happened last year. It’s great to feel the support," Nadal said.

Nadal broke Frenchman Paire eight times and recovered from a slight second-set wobble when he dropped serve twice in a row to surge into a round two meeting with Dutchman Robin Haase.

"[I’m] happy for the victory. [It] was not an easy opponent in the first round. He’s an uncomfortable opponent that already had some good victories this year," added Nadal.

Title holder Djokovic strolled through his opener against Marcel Granollers of Spain, advancing 6-3 6-4 6-2. With 1999 French Open champion Agassi in the players box for the first time after agreeing to a short-term coaching role, Djokovic experienced some trouble against the world No77, being broken four times.

"It’s great to have André Agassi as coach and as a mentor. I will try to learn as much as I can from him," said Djokovic.

Agassi would only stay for the first week of the tournament due to prior obligations, Djokovic said.

The Serb, seeking to become the first man in the Open era to win all four Majors at least twice will take on Portugal’s Joao Sousa next. Muguruza’s middling form this season saw her arrive in Paris with just three wins on clay, but the Spaniard dispatched former Paris champion Schiavone 6-2 6-4.

The fourth seed will meet Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit for a place in round three as Schiavone, who turns 37 in June, bid farewell to the tournament for possibly the final time.

"I cannot believe we have two ex-champions in the first round. Not only that but Francesca is a legend and I was very excited to play on Philippe Chatrier court with her," said Muguruza.

"I know I played good here before. That doesn’t make me extra confident this year.

"I think I just have to earn that confidence here, and, like today, going out there, trying to deal with things."

Second seed Karolina Pliskova won for just the third time in six visits to Roland Garros with a 7-5 6-2 victory over China’s Zheng Saisai.

Former French Open runners-up Sam Stosur and Sara Errani, the latter coming through qualifying, also moved into round two.

Canadian fifth seed Milos Raonic raced through with a routine 6-3 6-4 6-2 victory over Steve Darcis of Belgium.


Please sign in or register to comment.