PARIS — Only a short time after reaching yet another tennis milestone, Roger Federer was stumped.
He had just won his 233rd match at a Grand Slam tournament, equaling the Open era record set by Jimmy Connors, and he couldn’t remember who he beat to get that first victory.
“Well, I should (know), shouldn’t I?” Federer said after defeating Tobias Kamke of Germany 6-2, 7-5, 6-3 Monday in the first round of the French Open. “I know it was in Australia, but I can’t remember who I was playing.”
He was then reminded that it was Michael Chang.
“Oh, was it?” Federer said, a bit surprised. “Well, that was a beautiful victory, then.”
Whether it was or not, it started Federer on a career that has seen him win a record 16 Grand Slam titles and garner a slew of other records along the way.
And he’s only 30.
“I obviously love the big tournaments,” Federer said. “I have been so successful for such a long time and to already tie that record — 30 years old is pretty incredible, so I’m very happy.”
Besides Federer, top-ranked Novak Djokovic advanced to the second round on Day 2 of the French Open. Djokovic, who is trying to win his fourth straight Grand Slam title, beat Potito Starace of Italy 7-6 (3), 6-3, 6-1.
In the women’s tournament, top-ranked Victoria Azarenka won 12 of the final 14 games to come back and beat Alberta Brianti of Italy 6-7 (6), 6-4, 6-2. Defending champion Li Na also progressed, along with No. 3 Agnieszka Radwanska.
On Tuesday, defending champion Rafael Nadal will begin his quest for a record-breaking seventh title at Roland Garros. On the women’s side, 13-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams and second-seeded Maria Sharapova are scheduled to be in action.
For Federer, this year’s French Open is his 52nd major tournament, and 50th in a row. Just more stats to show how long the Swiss star has been around the game in his 30 years.
“When you look at the tournaments like this and you step back, you realize you have been playing for quite a long time,” Federer said. “When I started, I loved playing against those famous players I used to see on TV. Now I’m playing against younger players, a new generation. It’s also very nice.”
On Monday, Federer wasn’t perfect, but he didn’t struggle, either.
He was broken once in each set, including while trying to serve for the match at 5-2 in the third. He also piled up 47 unforced errors, 16 more than Kamke.
“They’re never easy, those first rounds, you know. Last thing you want is to go down a set or getting in a tough situation, but I was able to stay ahead in the first set. Had bits of ups and downs on my serve,” Federer said. “But overall, I’m happy I’m through. That’s what I look at in the end.”
Djokovic played in the main stadium and didn’t face a break point in the entire match. But he still struggled to put Starace away in the first set.
“At the start … I was still trying to find the rhythm and movement on the court. And he obviously played a very good first set,” Djokovic said. “But when I look at it now, after the match is over, maybe it was good for me to have the tough first set.”
Azarenka had the toughest time of the top players on court Monday. She trailed 4-0 in the second set and needed to save two break points before winning the next six games.
She was then broken to open the third set but still managed to reach the second round and avoid becoming the first top-seeded woman to lose in the first round at the French Open since the tournament began to allow foreign entrants in 1925.
“Sometimes I felt it was not my day. Sometimes I thought, ‘Yeah, maybe I still fight. I still have a chance,'” said Azarenka, who took over the No. 1 ranking by winning the Australian Open. “Sometimes it was like, ‘You know what? Forget it. I don’t want to do it.'”