• Tom Grant

Federer marks return with emphatic win over Istomin



20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer returned to the big stage of tennis action with a comfortable win against Uzbekistan's Denis Istomin in the first round of the French Open.


The Swiss all-time great marked his first Grand Slam match in 487 days with a dominant display on the Philippe-Chatrier court to win 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 in one hour 33 minutes.


And he will now face Croatia's Marin Cilic in round two with renewed confidence after a performance that had elements of his younger days when producing his best tennis.


Federer only returned from a long injury lay-off in March when he beat Britain's Dan Evans at the Qatar Open in three sets.


But he followed that up with a defeat in the next round to Georgia's Nikoloz Basilashvili before he again took some time to recover from his two knee surgeries.


He again suffered a shock defeat in his only clay-court event in the build-up to the second Grand Slam of the year, beaten by world no.75 Pablo Andujar at his home event in Geneva.


However, Federer settled into his rhythm very early in Paris, breaking the first Istomin service game and taking the first set in just 22 minutes.


The second had a similar theme, with Federer switching between groundstrokes and a serve-volley approach, consistently moving forward to the net to finish a point early.


And he showed those watching that he still had the famed Federer touch, with a few delicate drop shots helping him take the second set 6-4.


In truth, Istomin never really got going & it took just the one break of serve in the third to wrap up the match in just over 90 minutes.


But Federer looked fitter and in better form than he had shown so far in 2021 and admitted he was happy to be back playing in front of the Roland Garros crowd, "I worked very hard to get here, but it's an absolute pleasure to be back, it's great to see all of you, great to see this place again."


Old foes Cilic & Federer have met on ten occasions, Federer winning on nine occasions. The last time they met was in the 2018 Australian Open final that Federer won in five sets.

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