Updated: May 25, 2010, 5:10 AM ET

Something less than 1-derful

Garber By Greg Garber

PARIS -- With his match still irritatingly on serve 10 games into the opening set at Roland Garros, Roger Federer summoned a spark from the heat of his foul mood.

He had a set point against Peter Luczak's and was looking at a second serve. But after that offering and the subsequent volley were called in, Federer strode to the service box and carved a semicircle around the offending mark. He believed that the first set was his because of a double fault, but chair umpire Emmanuel Joseph thought otherwise.

Federer spent the next few minutes detailing his displeasure, and you couldn't help but feel that in this John McEnroe-inspired moment, he was reaching for some fire.

He eventually found it, winning the set (on an official double fault) and rolling 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 over the 30-year-old Pole turned Aussie. Federer's first French Open title defense, after that sticky start, is now under way.

"The beginning obviously is always important coming back as defending champion, and trying to get off to a good start," Federer said. "It was like a perfect match to get off the French Open campaign, really."

Serena Williams, who is the top seed on the women's side and also has one Roland Garros title on her résumé, suffered a little more turbulence. She needed a tiebreaker to ease past Stefanie Vogele of Switzerland 7-6 (2), 6-2.

"I definitely didn't feel good about it," a humbled Serena said. "At least I won. I think I'm still in the tournament."

It has been a typically disjointed season for Williams. She won the Australian Open in January, beating Justine Henin in the final, then disappeared from the circuit for three months, citing an injured left knee. In the meantime, she visited Kenya and opened a second school for children in Makueni, which is southeast of Nairobi. She was seen out and about at her hometown tournament in Miami and has tweeted incessantly.

Earlier this month, Williams returned to the court, reaching the semifinals in Rome before falling to Jelena Jankovic. She won only one match in Madrid, losing to Nadia Petrova in the round of 16. And yet, because no one has matched Rafael Nadal's dominance on the women's side, she is ranked among the favorites here, along with Henin, whom she would meet in the quarterfinals.

Serena, the 2002 champion, hasn't been past the quarterfinals here in the past six years, so projecting her directly into the quarters might be dicey, considering that Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Shahar Peer and Marion Bartoli conceivably could beat her.

Federer, too, has had a herky-jerky 2010.

Like Serena, he disappeared after winning the Australian Open -- trouble was he continued to play tennis. He lost to Marcos Baghdatis at Indian Wells, Tomas Berdych in Miami, Ernests Gulbis in Rome and then Albert Montanes in Estoril. He went 5-4 against players who several years ago probably wouldn't have beaten him.

Then, of course, Federer -- facing a Grand Slam wake-up call -- nearly ran the table in Madrid, losing to Rafael Nadal in the final, 4-6, 6-7 (5). He seems to have perfected his system for peaking at the majors; he's won four of the past Grand Slam singles events and 16 of 27 overall.

Murray steps on the Gas

He was tired coming in, having won the tournament at Nice, but not as exhausted as he was after going more than four hours against Andy Murray.

Richard Gasquet, the longtime French favorite, ran out to a two-set lead, then slowly, horribly collapsed. The final score: 4-6, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-2, 6-1. The crowd at Court Suzanne Lenglen, so giddy in the early going, went as flat as Gasquet, who called for the trainer on several occasions.

Gasquet has now lost nine of his past 10 five-set matches -- this from a man whose trainer was boasting before the event that Gasquet actually works out during tournaments, not just between them.

3 Things I KNOW I think

With apologies to Peter King of Sports Illustrated, here are three observations from Day 2 at Roland Garros.

1. Kei Nishikori is back: He blew onto the tennis landscape early in the 2008 season, winning the title at Delray Beach -- in only his sixth ATP event. The native of Shimane, Japan, was only 18 years and 1 month old -- the youngest player to win an ATP title since Lleyton Hewitt (16) in 1998. And then … he fell to No. 420 in the world. Nishikori has been reduced to playing Challengers this year, so it was nice to see him qualify his way into the draw and then win a first-round match over Santiago Giraldo, 2-6, 4-6, 7-6 (3), 6-2, 6-4. The comeback required 3 hours, 36 minutes. Afterward, he was surrounded by Japanese photographers and interviewed for television.

2. Lucie Safarova is hot: In a tennis sort of way. The 23-year-old from the Czech Republic hammered Jelena Dokic 6-2, 6-2 in her first-round match. She reached the quarters in three straight events -- Stuttgart, Rome and Madrid -- and has now won 10 of her past 13 matches.

3. The ball is absolutely flying here: And that's good for the big-hitting Americans -- until the rain and cold arrive Tuesday.

Greg Garber is a senior writer for ESPN.com.


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