The 16-time slam champion’s 6-2, 7-5, 6-3 first-round victory over Tobias Kamke was his 233rd in main draw matches – the same mark Connors reached at the US Open in 1992. Federer said: “I think that’s a big one, because that was longevity. Jimmy is obviously one of the greats of all time and was around for 20 years.”
Federer also revealed Connors’ record of 109 tournament titles is one he has in his sights, although he is a long way off at the moment on 74. He said: “Is it possible for me to equal Connors’ record? One hundred and ten – that would be a round figure. That would be incredible. But that’s a dream.”
Federer was not at his best and had to fight back from a break down in the second set, but he was content with the performance as a first step. He said: “They’re never easy, those first rounds. But overall I’m happy I’m through.”
In the second round, Federer will face Romania’s Adrian Ungur, who defeated former Wimbledon finalist David Nalbandian 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, 7-5.
World No 1 Novak Djokovic began his campaign for a fourth successive grand slam title with a 7-6 (7/3), 6-3, 6-1 victory over Italy’s Potito Starace. He, too, was shaky in the early stages and cut a frustrated figure for the as he struggled to impose himself on world No 97 Starace but, after he broke in the fifth game of the second set, the end was fairly swift in coming. Djokovic said: “I didn’t expect an easy match. He is a specialist on clay.”
Seventh seed Tomas Berdych, a dark horse for the title, began his campaign with a straightforward 6-3, 6-4, 6-1 victory over Dudi Sela while fellow big hitter Milos Raonic, seeded 19, was equally impressive in seeing off Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo 6-4, 6-2, 6-2. Tenth seed John Isner, who has been having a terrific season, eased past Rogerio Dutra Silva of Brazil 6-3, 6-4 ,6-4 but 15th seed Feliciano Lopez lost the first five games to France’s Florent Serra before pulling out with an abdominal injury.
Another first-round loser was Lleyton Hewitt, although it was remarkable that the Australian was playing in the first place. Hewitt, now ranked down at 176th in the world, had radical surgery in February to fuse the big toe joint in his left foot that had given him constant pain, and was playing his first match since. He showed his trademark battling qualities against Slovenian Blaz Kavcic, who now faces Djokovic, before going down 7-6 (7/2), 6-3, 6-7 (4/7), 6-3.
There were three eventful five-set matches, with 31st seed Kevin Anderson winning his clash against Rui Machado, which had been stopped at 7-7 in the fifth on Sunday, 7-6 (7/2), 6-7 (6/8), 4-6, 6-1, 11-9. Unpredictable Latvian Ernests Gulbis battled back from two sets and 5-1 down to level his match against Mikhail Kukushkin only to lose 6-4, 7-6, (7/4) 5-7, 2-6, 6-4, while Arnaud Clement was involved in a titanic struggle with Alex Bogomolov Jr. Clement held match point on the Russian’s serve at 6-2, 3-6, 4-6, 7-6 (7/2), 5-4 when Bogomolov Jr was retired because of severe cramp.
Australian teenager Bernard Tomic won his first main-draw match at Roland Garros with a 7-6 (7/5), 6-3, 6-3 victory over Andreas Haider-Maurer to keep on track for a third-round meeting with Andy Murray.