PARIS – Roger Federer’s 4-year-old twins, Myla and Riva, hung in there for about 20 minutes Sunday in his guest box at Court Philippe Chatrier, long enough to see Daddy take control of his French Open match.
Wearing matching white dresses with black polka dots, pink bows in their hair, and sunglasses, the girls whiled away the time by looking at books. They bounced on the knees of their mom or Swiss Davis Cup coach Severin Luthi. At one point, one Federer tyke draped herself over a railing, not all that interested in watching. Eventually, the kids left with a nanny, perhaps to join their twin brothers, who are less than 3 weeks old.
Truth is, Federer’s first victory as a father of four – he had been 0-1 since Leo and Lenny joined the world – contained little drama. Federer swept the last five games of the opening set, won 36 of 43 service points in the first two sets, and eliminated 87th-ranked Lukas Lacko of Slovakia 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 to reach the second round at Roland Garros.
“My personal life, as we know, it’s all great,” the fourth-seeded Federer said. “So I’m happy the family is here.”
Sunday’s win was the 2009 champion’s 59th in a French Open match, tying him with Rafael Nadal for the most in history. Nadal, who’s won eight titles here, gets a chance to nudge ahead Monday, when he’ll play his first-round match against American wild-card entry Robby Ginepri.
“Rafa is the favorite” to win the tournament, Federer proclaimed, saying Novak Djokovic comes next in the pecking order, “and then the rest (of us); it’s very clear.”
In Lacko, Federer was facing a guy who’s lost 11 matches in a row on clay, and 14 of 20 first-round Grand Slam matches, so there probably wasn’t much reason for the 17-time major champion to worry.
And yet, Federer explained, he did experience “those hints of fear, you know – maybe yesterday, maybe this morning at one point – just for like five seconds: ‘Oh, I really hope I don’t have to pack my bags today.”’
No such problems, of course.
Federer kept Lacko on the defensive by serve-and-volleying occasionally and taking 16 of 20 points at the net.
Still, Lacko wasn’t ready to declare Federer capable of winning another major.
“He (has a) couple of moments when he starts to miss a little or couple easy mistakes,” Lacko said. “Top guys can take advantage.”
Other winners on a cloudy – but dry – Day 1 at the only Grand Slam event that starts on Sunday included No. 6 Tomas Berdych, who wore a flower-print shirt during his match and a track suit with his name on the sleeves and legs afterward; No. 8 Milos Raonic, who got past the youngest man in the draw, 19-year-old Nick Kyrgios; 10th-seeded American John Isner; No. 13 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga; and No. 22 Jerzy Janowicz, who beat Victor Estrella Burgos, the first man from the Dominican Republic at a major tournament since 1956.
Defending women’s champion Serena Williams and her older sister, No. 29 Venus, moved closer to a possible third-round meeting. Other women advancing: No. 3 Agnieszka Radwanska, who weathered seven consecutive service breaks at the start before taking the last nine games; No. 8 Angelique Kerber; No. 14 Carla Suarez Navarro; and No. 31 Daniela Hantuchova. The only seeded player to lose was No. 25 Kaia Kanepi of Estonia. Francesca Schiavone, the French Open champion in 2010 and runner-up in 2011 but now ranked only 53rd, was beaten 6-3, 6-3 by 71st-ranked Ajla Tomljanovic of Croatia.
When Federer departed the main stadium, Serena Williams entered and had about the same amount of difficulty, beating 130th-ranked French wild-card entry Alize Lim 6-2, 6-1. Across the grounds at Court Suzanne Lenglen, Venus defeated 17-year-old Belinda Bencic of Switzerland 6-4, 6-1.
While British bookmakers are issuing odds on the prospects for all-Federer doubles teams one day, the Williams sisters already have earned 13 major titles together in doubles, to go along with Serena’s 17 and Venus’ seven in singles.
Venus, whose 34th birthday is next month, turned professional about 2½ years before Bencic was born. No longer are there teens at the top – Venus, for example, was 17 when she reached her first Grand Slam final; Serena was that age when she won her first major title.
Indeed, the 2014 French Open women’s field has more than twice as many players 30 or older (17) as teens (eight).
“Young folks today, eh?” Venus said. “I’m just trying to hopefully stay alive myself as an older player.”