Paris (AFP) – Roger Federer begins his 62nd consecutive Grand Slam tournament at the French Open on Sunday against a man who once almost condemned him to his worst loss at a major.
The second seeded Swiss takes centre stage on the opening day of Roland Garros when he faces Alejandro Falla of Colombia.
Falla, who only squeezed into the main draw as a “lucky loser” from qualifying, famously led Federer by two sets to love in the first round at Wimbledon in 2010 before the great Swiss fought back to win in five.
Left-handed Colombian Falla is ranked 111 in the world, having been as high as 48 just two years ago, and made the fourth round in Paris in 2011.
Federer, the 2009 champion, is seeded second this year and is desperate to make the most of a kind draw which dumped top seed Novak Djokovic, nine-time champion Rafael Nadal and third seed Andy Murray all in the opposite half.
As a result, the 33-year-old can only face one of his main rivals for the title in the June 7 final and not before.
“I was good enough to make the finals on many occasions, so I feel like I know that I have done well here in previous years,” said Federer.
“I hope that that can help me a little bit. I’m playing good tennis, and if I do string it all together, it could be a successful tournament.”
Federer, who has a 7-0 career record against Falla, is seeded to meet compatriot Stan Wawrinka in the quarter-finals.
The eighth-seeded 2014 Australian Open champion starts his campaign also on Sunday against Turkey’s world number 82 Marsel Ilhan.
Japanese fifth seed Kei Nishikori is also in action on Sunday against Paul-Henri Mathieu, the 33-year-old Frenchman, now ranked at 123 and who has won just one tour match all year.
Nishikori has yet to get beyond the fourth round in Paris but retained his claycourt title in Barcelona this year as well as making the semi-finals in Madrid.
He also has the added benefit of 1989 French Open champion Michael Chang as coach.
In the women’s draw, last year’s runner-up Simona Halep, seeded three, gets play underway on the main Philippe Chatrier court against Evgeniya Rodina, the world number 91 from Russia who has never won a main draw match in Paris.
Serbian seventh seed Ana Ivanovic, the 2008 champion, starts her campaign against Kazakhstan’s Yaroslava Shvedova, a quarter-finalist in 2010 and 2012.
In other standout matches on the first day, Ernests Gulbis, who knocked Federer out of the competition last year on his way to the semi-finals, faces Igor Sijsling of the Netherlands.
Gulbis has just two wins all year to his name.
French 14th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, a semi-finalist in 2013, takes on Swedish qualifier Christian Lindell, the world number 200 who is making his Grand Slam debut.