Rafael Nadal began his pursuit of a record-tying 20th men’s Grand Slam title with a straight-sets victory at the French Open Monday.
The 34-year old Spanish superstar needs one more Slam to match Roger Federer’s record but has described the defence of his Roland Garros crown as the “most difficult ever” given the cold and damp conditions of a tournament delayed four months by the coronavirus pandemic.
The second seed defeated Egor Gerasimov, the world number 83 from Belarus, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 to launch his assault on a 13th French Open title, 15 years after triumphing on his debut.
“I am happy, honestly. I did the things that I had to do. I didn’t expect much more,” said Nadal.
“Hopefully it’ll be back to normal next year and I’ll play in front of the beautiful crowd.”
He smacked 32 winners to just 20 unforced errors to down Gerasimov to book a clash with Mackenzie McDonald in round two.
Serena Williams made a slow but successful start in her latest bid to equal Margaret Court’s all-time mark.
An error-prone beginning from the American star left world number 102 Kristie Ahn serving for the first set before the three-time Roland Garros champion prevailed 7-6 (7/2), 6-0.
Williams, seeded sixth here, has not gone beyond the last 16 in Paris since her defeat to Garbine Muguruza in the 2016 final.
Fourth seed Daniil Medvedev crashed out in the first round for the fourth year running, losing 6-4, 7-6 (7/3), 2-6, 6-1 to Hungary’s Marton Fucsovics.
The Russian, runner-up at last year’s US Open, became the highest-ranked player to fall so far and has yet to win a match at Roland Garros since his debut in 2017.
US Open winner Dominic Thiem, the runner-up to Nadal in Paris the past two years, defeated former Slam champion Marin Cilic 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.