Roger Federer kicked off his 2014 French Open with a dominant 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 triumph over Lukas Lacko on Sunday in a match that foreshadows great things for the Swiss star.
The dominant showing, including 16 of 20 points at the net and five of 11 break points, is a good sign for a man with 17 Grand Slam titles who has only played in two clay-court tournaments this calendar year.
The negatives for Federer entering Paris are long. He had a one-and-done showing in Rome. He lost in the opening round of the Italian Open. It goes on, but a lack of quality reps and number of reps in a nutshell amounted to many wondering if a slumping Rafael Nadal or a hobbled Novak Djokovic would be able to overcome Federer.
Probably not, if Sunday's result is any indication. Now playing in his 16th straight French Open, Federer surpassed an important milestone, as explained by ESPN Stats & Info:
Roger Federer got his 59th match win at French Open today. He entered the event 1 behind Rafael Nadal's wins record— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 25, 2014
But a changing of the guard has to happen at some point, right? The aforementioned big two have been somewhat all over the place as of late, and even Federer himself recognizes that the landscape of the sport is slowly shifting, as he told the media before the tournament, via ESPN.com's Matt Wilansky:
Of course surprises can happen, like in every tournament. There are very many good players with very small differences between them.
We have seen some surprises this year already with Stan, for example, in Australia. But in the French you need to play a lot. You get worn out. Some matches are really a trap.
Following his first-round victory, Federer showed a different side as he explained his feelings leading up to the match and tournament:
“I wasn’t nervous actually going into the match,” Federer said, via Sports Illustrated. “It’s more just like those hints of fear, maybe yesterday, maybe this morning at one point, just for like five seconds, ‘Oh, I really hope I don’t have to pack my bags today.’ That kind of feeling.”
Lacko followed up his loss with a quip, per ESPN.com. "He (has a) couple of moments when he starts to miss a little or couple easy mistakes," Lacko said. "Top guys can take advantage."
We'll see about that. The cries of Federer's collapse in Paris were of the premature variety after his first-round loss to Jeremy Chardy at the Italian Open came after the birth of his twins, Leo and Lenny.
Federer needing reps to compete at the highest level in Paris make sense—except when that does not apply to a player like the Swiss superstar given his wealth of experience at the tournament already.
In fact, Federer has the look of a player who is more reliable than both Nadal and Djokovic at this point. Go ahead and call it a first-round overreaction, but the whispers of Federer's demise seem to be wishful thinking by those who are ready for a new generation of men's tennis to begin.
Federer has a few things to say about that in the coming week.