Roger Federer Dominates Denis Istomin in 1st Round of 2021 French Open

Tyler Conway@@jtylerconwayFeatured Columnist IVMay 31, 2021

Switzerland's Roger Federer plays a return to Uzbekistan's Denis Istomin during their first round match on day two of the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, Monday, May 31, 2021. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
AP Photo/Thibault Camus

It had been more than 16 months since Roger Federer last played on a Grand Slam stage, but it looked like he never left.

Federer breezed to an easy 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 win over Denis Istomin in his first-round match at the 2021 French Open on Monday. The 39-year-old was efficient and sharp throughout the match, particularly with his serve.

“I think I was very focused, I’m finding match rhythm again whereas in Geneva I was all over the place...There was a lot going on in Geneva so I was just much better prepared mentally," Federer told Jon Wertheim on Tennis Channel.

Federer hadeight aces and hit 71 percent of his first serves in play. It was a championship-level performance from the all-time great, who has looked understandably rusty since returning to tennis from a 14-month layoff in March. 

“I’m just realistic that I know I will not win the French and whoever thought I would or could win it is wrong,” Federer said coming into the tournament. “Of course crazier things might have happened, but I’m not so sure in the past 50 years at the French Open somebody just rocked up at 40 years old being out for a year and a half and [went] on to just win.”

Despite being as humble as ever, Federer very much looked like someone capable of winning the event Monday. His serves were accurate and smartly placed, his returns crisp and he seemed to be moving better side to side than at any other point since his return. Federer finished with 48 winners against only 20 unforced errors. 

Istomin, a veteran who has long struggled on clay and is nearing the end of his career, may have been a perfect confidence-boosting match. The 34-year-old double-faulted four times and faced 13 break points.

Federer is 8-0 in his career against Istomin. He will face familiar foe Marin Cilic in the second round.