May 26, 2015 11:54 AM
Easy start for Rafael Nadal at French Open
The Associated Press
PARIS (AP) On his return to center court, nine-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal enjoyed a quiet Tuesday afternoon.
Facing 18-year-old French wild-card entry Quentin Halys, the Spaniard was never really tested, progressing to the second round with a 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 win over his 296th-ranked opponent.
Nadal, who lost his only match on the Parisian dirt when he was taken out by Robin Soderling in the fourth round in 2009, extended his impressive record at Roland Garros to 67-1.
Although he dropped his serve once in the opening set, Nadal stayed in control until the final point.
There were many question marks surrounding Nadal's form ahead of the tournament after he dropped to seventh in the rankings following a laborious start to the season. He entered the tournament with five losses on clay, the first time he's had more than three in a year since dropping six back in 2003 as a teenager.
His victory over Halys is unlikely to give him much indication about his current level, but at least it was a smooth start to the tournament.
"My feelings have been okay, have been good." Nadal said. "I think I changed good directions with my forehand, very good forehand down the line. After the first three games that I started a little bit slow, then I start moving the ball better. It is the first match and I played well enough."
Things will be harder in the second round for Nadal, who will be up against clay-court specialist Nicolas Almagro.
"Obviously it is not a good round, but it is what there is," Nadal said. "I'm going to try to play well and try to have a chance to win."
Because of his low seeding, Nadal could face top-ranked Novak Djokovic as soon as the quarterfinals this year. Carrying a 22-match winning streak into the tournament where he chases the only Grand Slam title missing from his collection, the Serb was up against Jarkko Nieminen later on center court.
In women's play, Caroline Wozniacki made a strong start, too, against a far more dangerous opponent. The former top-ranked player from Denmark stopped Karin Knapp's good run on clay this season with a 6-3, 6-0 win to reach the second round.
Knapp arrived in Paris on the back of her second career title at the Nuremberg Open last week and with an 8-2 record on clay. But she was no match for the fifth-seeded Wozniacki, who made it to the quarterfinals at Roland Garros five years ago.
After a very tight start in which they played four games in more than 30 minutes, Wozniacki limited her mistakes to nine unforced errors.
"It was really close in the beginning, a lot of deuces and advantages. She obviously is playing really well," Wozniacki said. "So for me it was a tough first round, but nothing unusual from my other draws this year. I was ready for it and just kind of excited. I knew the longer we played the better for me, so I didn't mind at all."
Also advancing was two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, who struggled during three sets in her tupsy-turvy match with 80th-ranked Marina Erakovic before securing a 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 win.
"It was very difficult today. It was quite a long match, a big fight," she said. "Sometimes I couldn't win my serve. But that's how it is in the first round of Grand Slams. I'm just glad I'm still in and still playing."
On a half-empty Court 3, Jelena Jankovic was the first loser among the seeded players in action on Tuesday. The 25th-seeded Jankovic, a three-time semifinalist in Paris, lost 6-3, 6-4 to qualifier Sesil Karatantcheva.
In the men's draw, seventh-seeded David Ferrer clinched his 300th career match-win on his favorite surface with a 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 victory over 94th-ranked Lukas Lacko, and 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic breezed past Robin Haase 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 to win his first Grand Slam match this year.
Cilic is playing in his first major of the year after missing the Australian Open because of a shoulder injury.