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Roger Federer off to winning start in French Open return

Roger Federer off to winning start in French Open return
© Reuters
Federer last played a match at Roland Garros in 2015.

Roger Federer returned to Roland Garros as if he had never been away to sweep into the second round of the French Open.

The 20-time grand slam champion is playing the year's second major tournament for the first time in four years and had no trouble finding his feet on the redeveloped Court Philippe Chatrier as he dispatched Italy's Lorenzo Sonego 6-2 6-4 6-4 in just an hour and 41 minutes.

Federer next faces German lucky loser Oscar Otte, who won his first grand slam match against Malek Jaziri earlier.

The smell of fresh paint hung in the air at this famous venue as fans flocked to see Federer, the cry of 'Roger, Roger' ringing around as he took to the court.

It is 16 years since Federer last lost in the first round of a grand slam, to Luis Horna here in 2003, and Sonego is no mug, particularly on clay.

But, from the moment Federer's very first shot hit the net and dropped dead on the other side, the Italian must have had a sinking feeling.

Federer was at his creative best, chopping a backhand drop shot return over the net to break for a 4-0 lead, and keeping Sonego guessing as to which of his many game plans he would deploy at any moment.

Things looked distinctly grim for the 24-year-old, ranked 73, when Federer began the second set by breaking serve twice more but he at least made a match of it after that.

Federer showed he might be mortal after all by double-faulting on break point to allow Sonego to get back to 4-2, but the third seed wrapped up the set with no further alarms.

Sonego kept pace with his opponent through the first eight games of the third set, his vocal expressions becoming ever more desperate, but a break for Federer in the ninth game paved the way for victory.


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