Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 June 2019

Roger Federer wins first match back at French Open in four years, against Lorenzo Sonego

The 20-time major winner victorious at Roland Garros to set up second-round match with Oscar Otte

Roger Federer has made a winning return to the French Open. AFP
Roger Federer has made a winning return to the French Open. AFP

Roger Federer admitted he missed the French Open "so much" after marking his return to the clay court grand slam with a routine 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 win over Italy's Lorenzo Sonego in the first round on Sunday.

Federer, the 2009 champion in Paris, will face German lucky loser Oscar Otte for a place in the third round.

The 20-time major winner hadn't played the tournament since 2015 when he reached the quarter-finals.

However, on Sunday, it was as if the 37-year-old Swiss had never been away as he swept to victory in one hour 41 minutes on a rebuilt and packed Court Philippe Chatrier. It was his 60th successive first round win at a grand slam.

"I missed it so much so thanks for the welcome," said Federer. "I felt great playing on this court. It looks great and attractive, so congratulations to everyone involved. Hopefully I can play here again for my next match."

Federer said that his intention was always to play the French Open every year, until the decision was taken out of his hands by a long-term knee injury.

"The goal was always to play every year and then what happened with the knee and the back in '16, '17, '18 I just felt for my health maybe it was better not to do it," he said of his decision to cut the event from his schedule.

"And all of a sudden these years go by, and you haven't played. Now I'm very happy I took that decision.

"I'm happy to be here. The reception I got today was crazy, was really nice to see a full stadium for a first round like this. It was a beauty. So I'm very, very happy."

Federer broke serve five times and fired 36 winners past 24-year-old Sonego, the world number 73 who made the quarter-finals at the Monte Carlo Masters this year after qualifying.

"Two breaks in the first set was very important for me and when I was leading 4-0 I could take more risks, be more aggressive," said the third seed. "I know that I can play very well on clay and I am very happy to win in straight sets."

Federer's second round opponent, Otte, is in uncharted territory after reaching the second round of a major for the first time following his 6-3, 6-1, 4-6, 6-0 win ver experienced Tunisian Malek Jaziri.

Before Sunday, the world No 145 had won just one match on the main tour in eight years.

His earnings this year are $54,000 and $327,000 in his career compared to Federer's $3.1 million in 2019 and $123.6 million overall.

"It will be a big match for me," added Otte, who is already assured €64,000 by getting to the second round in Paris. "I am looking forward to it."

Updated: May 27, 2019 04:39 AM

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