Federer faces Spanish winning machine at French Open
PARIS (AFP) –
Roger Federer begins his 54th consecutive Grand Slam tournament at the French Open on Sunday when he faces a Spanish winning machine who, for once, is not called Rafael Nadal.
Federer, the second seed and 2009 Roland Garros champion, takes on qualifier Pablo Carreno-Busta who has made it through qualifying into his maiden Grand Slam draw.
Carreno-Busta, is at 166 in the world having started at 654 in January, an ascent boosted by winning seven Futures events and an astonishing record of 53 wins in 57 matches on the circuit’s third tier of competition.
Women’s top seed, 2002 champion and overwhelming favourite, Serena Williams also features on opening day taking on Georgia’s Anna Tatishvili, the world number 80, who, until Strasbourg last week, had not won a match on the main tour in 2013.
Her only other main draw appearance at the French Open ended in a first round loss to Marion Bartoli in 2011 while three other trips to Paris sank in qualifying.
Ana Ivanovic, the 14th seed and 2008 champion, begins proceedings on the main Court Philippe Chatrier against Croatia’s Petra Martic.
Italian fifth seed Sara Errani, the runner-up to Maria Sharapova last year, starts action on Court Suzanne Lenglen against Dutchwoman Arantxa Rus with Venus Williams closing the programme against Poland’s Urszula Radwanska.
Sandwiched in between are two of the sports ironmen — former world number one and double major winner Lleyton Hewitt and Spanish grinder David Ferrer.
Hewitt, 32, and at 85 in the world, has played just once on clay all season, suffering a first round exit in Houston last month.
The Australian, who first played Roland Garros in 1999, was a quarter-finalist in 2001 and 2004, but faces a tough opener against French 15th seed Gilles Simon.
Fourth-seeded Ferrer, a semi-finalist 12 months ago, plays Marinko Matosevic of Australia.
The 2013 French Open, the second Grand Slam event of the season, gets underway against a background of dire warnings over its future if ambitious plans to expand and refurbish the cramped Roland Garros site are not approved.
“There is no alternative. Soon the players will not come because they will be better treated elsewhere,” tournament director Gilbert Ysern told AFP.
“If we do not see this work through, we may not necessarily lose the title of a Grand Slam but players may not come.
“These days if an emir offers them a fortune to play an exhibition during Roland Garros, they prefer Roland Garros. But tomorrow? There are plenty of players on the circuit who are young, from countries without much tennis tradition and the legend of Roland Garros means nothing.”