Federer returns to center court at French Open

PARIS: Back on center court and standing in a pile of the same red clay on which he has lost the last three French Open finals, Roger Federer looked comfortable in the first round of this year's tournament.

The second-seeded Swiss easily advanced by beating Alberto Martin of Spain 6-4, 6-3, 6-2, joining four-time defending champion Rafael Nadal in the second round at Roland Garros.

"I didn't even think about last year's match on the same court, because I was so much concentrated," said Federer, who has 13 major titles to his name but none from the French Open. "I wanted to do my best. I didn't want to lose my first match." No problem there. The former top-ranked player was broken only once as his serve appeared to be working in the heat of Paris - something that suited Federer well.

"It was nice conditions, not too much wind," Federer said.

"Little warm, so it was good." Nadal broke the French Open men's record for consecutive wins by beating Marcos Daniel of Brazil 7-5, 6-4, 6-3 for his 29th straight win at Roland Garros.

Dinara Safina, the top-seeded player in the women's draw, advanced along with No. 3 Venus Williams and unseeded Maria Sharapova.

On Tuesday, second-seeded Serena Williams and No. 5 Jelena Jankovic are scheduled to play in the first round of the women's draw, while No. 4 Novak Djokovic and No. 5 Juan Martin del Potro play in the men's tournament.

Federer came into the French Open with an upset win over Nadal on clay at the Madrid Open two weeks ago, and he said he was just hoping to get through to the second round at Roland Garros.

"Now I can focus. I can unwind for a while," Federer said. "I have less pressure, because the pressure is when you have to manage the first round." Nadal's win over Daniel bettered the French Open record held by Bjorn Borg, who won 28 straight from 1978-81. Nadal also equaled the overall tournament record, matching the 29 straight that Chris Evert won between 1974-75 and 1979-81. Evert did not play at the French Open from 1976-78.

Nadal was broken three times by Daniel, but the top-seeded Spaniard remained perfect at the French Open as he tries to become the first player to win five straight titles at Roland Garros.

"Roland Garros always is difficult," Nadal said. "But the important thing is be with (a) positive mentality and try to win, no? ... I won in three sets. That's important." Also on the men's side, sixth-seeded Andy Roddick of the United States beat French wild-card entry Romain Jouan 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 to win a match at the French Open for the first time since 2005.

"I'm just glad I finally won a match out there," said Roddick, who quit in the first round in 2006 after losing the first two sets, was beaten in his first match in 2007, then missed last year's French Open with an injury.

Safina routed Anne Keothavong of Britain 6-0, 6-0, spraying shots to all parts of the court.

"I was just playing point by point, game by game, and it ended up like this," said Safina, half of the only brother-sister combination alongside Marat Safin to have served as the No. 1-ranked player in the world.

Williams, a seven-time Grand Slam champion, survived a sudden second-set slump to beat Bethanie Mattek-Sands 6-1, 4-6, 6-2.

"I'm definitely a third-set player," said Williams, who has never won the French Open. "Once I get to the third set ... I feel a new level coming." Sharapova played with a bandage on her ailing right shoulder, and she struggled in the first set before beating Anastasiya Yakimova of Belarus 3-6, 6-1, 6-2.

"I started pretty lousy," said Sharapova, playing in a Grand Slam match for the first time since last year's Wimbledon. "I was just a little sloppy. But I totally changed it around, and I started playing a lot better and more aggressive." Four players in the women's draw were upset: No. 14 Flavia Pennetta of Italy, No. 17 Patty Schnyder of Switzerland, No. 23 Alisa Kleybanova of Russia and No. 26 Anna Chakvetadze of Russia.

No. 19 Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic was the only male player to be upset Monday.

"Even though the scoreline may look like it was pretty easy, it definitely wasn't out there," said Alexa Glatch, a 19-yerar-old American who eliminated Pennetta 6-1, 6-1. "It's never easy to beat a top 20 player like that."