It wasn't exactly a Monday morning rush hour in Paris, but Roger Federer started his work week chasing a deep drive with the urgency of a man hustling to meet a major deadline. Racing behind the baseline, Federer flicked a full-stretch running forehand squash shot deep into the court, slid back into balance without missing a beat, then flattened out a forehand winner.
On a day in which Federer didn't fully find his comfort zone, he kept his footing, creating a stress-free passage into the second round with a 6-2, 7-5, 6-3 victory over Tobias Kamke.
The third seed scored his 233rd career major victory to equal Jimmy Connors' record for most Grand Slam match wins in the Open era. The Swiss master has racked up records with the regularity John McEnroe once accrued code violations, but was surprised by the milestone.
"Honestly, I didn't even know about the number," Federer told ESPN's Brad Gilbert. "Weird with all the press I do no one even mentioned it. Jimmy played years and years so to do that number at 30 years old is amazing."
Playing his 50th consecutive major, Federer did not allow small stumbling blocks—facing an opponent who can slap winners or spray errors with random abandon, navigating breezy conditions on the smaller Suzanne Lenglen stadium court, struggling to find his range at the outset, and his inability to create immediate closure near the finish—to bubble up into bigger issues. The 78th-ranked German broke back for 2-all in the first set before Federer ran off four consecutive games, sealing the set with a forehand drop shot winner.
Though he showed bursts of his familiar snazzy shotmaking, Federer wasn't exactly razor sharp. In the second set, he shanked a backhand so badly the ball soared straight up in the air, nearly landing on his own baseline as Kamke held for 2-1. Kamke made little concession to clay, opting to to go for low-percentage drives down the line when stretched, rather than hitting higher and deeper to try to recover position in rallies. He got help from Federer, who was too casual in slapping a low smash into top of the tape. Kamke took immediate advantage, crushing a forehand return winner down the line to break for 4-2.
Sometimes, the German’s ambition exceeded his accuracy. Late in the second set, he netted a backhand to hand Federer break point. Federer attacked behind a forehand, and Kamke’s running forehand down the line strayed wide, giving the Swiss the break back; he employed a similar pattern to break again for 6-5. Federer's willingness to step into the court—he won 20 of 29 net approaches—was key, as he closed the second set with a forehand winner down the line.
Building a 5-1 third-set lead, Federer stumbled slightly near the finish. Kamke saved two match points for 2-5, then saved a third and hoisted a lob to break for 3-5. Federer finally sealed the deal on his sixth match point, raising his record to 49-4 since losing to Novak Djokovic in the 2011 U.S. Open semifinal.