Serena Williams, Roger Federer breeze on French Open Day 1
Serena Williams won her opening match at the French Open, and then achieved a career breakthrough by speaking French to the crowd for the first time.
"I'm a beginner," Williams said - referring to her French, not tennis.
Her play spoke volumes Sunday. Williams returned to the red clay that tripped her up in the first round a year ago, channeled any lingering frustration into her overpowering strokes and drubbed Anna Tatishvili 6-0, 6-1.
Roger Federer, the 2009 champion, remained unbeaten in first-round matches at major tournaments since 2003 by sweeping qualifier Pablo Carreno Busta 6-2, 6-2, 6-3. Sam Querrey, the highest-ranked American on the men's tour, equaled his best showing ever at Roland Garros by reaching the second round when he beat Lukas Lacko 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.
Williams lost her opening match at a Grand Slam tournament for the only time in her career a year ago, when she was beaten by France's Virginie Razzano. That was the most shocking in a succession of losses for Williams at Roland Garros, where she hasn't won the title since 2002 and hasn't reached the semifinals since 2003.
Determined to avoid another bad start, Williams won the first nine games, and 30 of the first 37 points. There was no letup from there, and she was still pumping her fist and shouting "Come on!" a game from the finish.
Williams won 56 of 78 points, including 28 of 33 on her serve, and hit eight aces. She maintained a stern expression throughout the match, and allowed herself only a brief smile when Tatishvili pushed a forehand wide on match point.
Williams, who keeps an apartment in Paris, was then interviewed on center court and spoke French with only a slight accent.
"I think I am French because I have a flat here," she said. "I love Paris."
She'll face tougher competition in the rounds to come - Tatishvili fell to 2-11 this year and 0-3 at the French Open.
Others advancing on a chilly, gray first day of play included Sara Errani, the 2012 runner-up to Maria Sharapova, and 2008 champion Ana Ivanovic.
American Mallory Burdette, whose ranking has climbed to a career-best 80th from 142nd at the start of the year, made a successful Roland Garros debut by beating Donna Vekic 6-3, 6-4.
Burdette, a 22-year-old Stanford alum, said she has enjoyed learning how to play on clay.
"It's a bit of a challenge," she said. "You have to change up your strategy a little bit, especially if you're a big hitter. It takes a little bit of effort, but it's fun."
Former No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt lost a seesaw marathon to No. 15-seeded Gilles Simon, 3-6, 1-6, 6-4, 6-1, 7-5.
Play began with the temperature in the mid-50s, and an hour into the tournament, Errani was into the second round. The tenacious Italian beat Arantxa Rus 6-1, 6-2 in the opening match on Court Suzanne Lenglen.
Errani reached a Grand Slam final for the first time a year ago at Roland Garros.
"Last year was an unbelievable tournament, the best tournament of my life," Errani said. "But I don't want to think about that. I just want to come here and play another tournament. I try to concentrate on my tennis, not too much about last year."
Now ranked a career-best No. 5, Errani dominated Rus from the baseline and won four games at love. Rus double-faulted seven times and lost her 13th consecutive match on the WTA Tour.
Ivanovic, seeded 14th, beat Petra Martic 6-1, 3-6, 6-3. Ivanovic improved to 30-4 in the first round of Grand Slam tournaments.