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

Paris — Defending champion Rafael Nadal got his bid for a record-extending 12th French Open title off to the perfect start by brushing aside German qualifier Yannick Hanfmann, while world No1 Novak Djokovic was also a comfortable victor in the first round at Roland Garros on Monday.

Nadal, a 17-time Grand Slam champion, cruised to a 6-2 6-1 6-3 victory on the rebuilt Court Philippe Chatrier to set up a clash with another German qualifier — world No114 Yannick Maden — in round two.

Nadal had suffered three consecutive semifinal defeats earlier in the clay-court season, but appeared to find his best form in an Italian Open title success sealed with victory over old rival Djokovic, while his French Open win-loss record now reads 87-2.

“It’s always amazing to play here, the new Chatrier is very nice,” the second seed said. “It’s been an important place in my career. I played a good tournament in Rome which was very important for my confidence. Now we’ll see.”

The 32-year-old Nadal raced into a 3-0 lead in the opening set before a second break of serve in the eighth game sealed it after just 40 minutes. The second set was over in a flash as Nadal crushed nine winners past his beleaguered opponent.

The winning line honed into view when Nadal broke after a lengthy game to take a 2-1 advantage in the third, and the Spaniard completed the job on his first match point as world No184 Hanfmann blasted long.

Djokovic laid down an early marker in his bid to hold all four Grand Slam titles simultaneously for the second time, powering past Polish youngster Hubert Hurkacz.

The 15-time major champion impressed in a 6-4 6-2 6-2 triumph and will face Swiss lucky loser Henri Laaksonen in round two.

“I was very solid. I’m happy with my game today,” said the top seed. “It’s a long tournament … but I just want to concentrate on my next match.”

Twelve months ago, Djokovic dropped out of the world’s top 20 after a shock quarterfinal loss to Marco Cecchinato and even pondered skipping Wimbledon, but he has instead reclaimed his place at the top of the game.

The 22-year-old Hurkacz, who has claimed three wins over top-10 players this season, had no answer to the 2016 French Open winner, as Djokovic sealed a second-round spot without breaking sweat, hitting 27 winners.

Earlier on Monday, former No1 one Caroline Wozniacki collapsed to a 0-6 6-3 6-3 loss to Russian world No68 Veronika Kudermetova in the first round.

The Danish 13th seed had retired injured from her two previous matches in the lead-up to Roland Garros, and fell away badly after a strong first set.

“I think she got very lucky at the start of the second set and took advantage of the opportunities she got,” said Wozniacki.

Sixth seed and two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova was forced to pull out before her scheduled opener against Sorana Cirstea with a left arm injury, but said she should be fit for Wimbledon, which starts on July 1.

“[I’ll be out for] two to three weeks, so I’ll do some fitness and everything that I can do to prepare my body for the tennis on the grass,” said the Czech.

Dutch fourth seed Kiki Bertens looked in fine fettle, though, beating home player Pauline Parmentier 6-3 6-4.

Elsewhere in the women’s draw, Australian eighth seed Ashleigh Barty saw off American Jessica Pegula 6-3 6-3.

In the men’s event, three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka progressed with a 6-1 6-7 (3/7) 6-2 6-3 win over Slovakian Jozef Kovalik.

Australian Alex De Minaur, seeded 21st, beat the US’s Bradley Klahn 6-1, 6-4, 6-4, although Georgian 15th seed Nikoloz Basilashvili and Russian 12th seed Daniil Medvedev both exited the tournament.

AFP