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By Richard Pagliaro | Sunday, May 26, 2019


Absence makes the heart grow fonder—and Roger Federer fiercer.

The 37-year-old Swiss said he missed Paris during his four-year French Open furlough.

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The feeling was mutual for French fans.

Receiving a rousing reception from a packed Philippe Chatrier Stadium court, Federer responded rocking the house and Italian Lorenzo Sonego, 6-2, 6-4, 6-4, rolling into the second round in his Roland Garros return.

Twenty years removed from his tournament debut when he fell to Patrick Rafter and a decade since he captured his lone Roland Garros crown, Federer looked fit and played with the passion of a man pleased to be back in Paris.

"I feel that the public missed me, and I missed them, as well," Federer told the media in Paris. "So 10 or 20 years later or after not playing here for many years, there was some buzz, which I could feel on the central court when I was training and when I was playing today.

"So it was rather cool, rather pleasant, and I really loved the welcome I got on the court. I hope that it continues like this."




It was Federer's first French Open match since he fell to good friend Stan Wawrinka in the 2015 quarterfinals and he conceded feeling the jitters at the start. Federer quickly calmed the nerves breaking the lanky Italian in his first two service games bursting out to a 4-0 lead.

"There has been some pressure in the beginning, obviously some nerves, many people wanted to know how it was going to be for me, how I was going to be back," Federer said. "There has been a lot of attention lately with my return. When I started the match, I started it well, so it shows that the pressure is not acting on me."

The 20-time Grand Slam champion set the tone on serve. Federer served 74 percent, dropped only seven points on second serve and denied three of four break points in a crisp one hour, 41-minute triumph.

Quick off the mark, Federer fired 36 winners against 15 unforced errors in scoring his 60th straight Grand Slam first-round win. 

Streaking across the red clay, Federer whipped his forehand with authority to spread the court and sometimes exploited the Italian's deeper court positioning mixing in the short slice and drop shot.

Though his morning coffee isn't brewed from the fountain of youth, Federer continues to play vintage tennis this season. Imposing his attacking game today, Federer won 25 of 30 trips to net.

The Swiss, who captured his 101st career title in Miami last month, said loving the tennis lifestyle is key to his longevity.

"There is much more to it than just the slams," Federer said. "I know sometimes, especially now, as we are at a Grand Slam, people are only talking about Grand Slams, but the majority of my tournament wins come elsewhere.

"So I love to play. The traveling, to me, doesn't bother me too much, you know. I feel like I have a lot of friends around the world, so it's nice to see them, as well. I think that's also helpful, going to places and getting to see my old friends I only see maybe once a year.

"And, yeah, just very happy how things are going on the tour, and my family loves it, too."




Federer showed his all-court comfort level dragging the baseliner into awkward and uncomfortable positions.

"Most of the players like conventional rallies," Federer said. "Now players manage to hit very hard their first ball, their forehand, and their backhand. That's the conventional. So if you want to have a pleasant match, well, you do that and you still win.

"So the question is do I do this and make it easy for them, or do I play differently and make them more uneasy, make it more difficult for them? So very often it's like that for me. It's very pleasant for me to do a drop shot or a passing shot. I'm not trying to avoid the fight."

Tennis Express

In his pre-tournament presser, Federer candidly conceded he doesn't know if he's capable of winning Paris, the Swiss said today that's not spin it's simply the truth.

"This is not a show I'm putting on. This is the truth," Federer said. "I really don't know how far I can go in this event, and I am very happy with my first round. It was a really good performance, I thought, from my side for not having played here for as long as I did."


 

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