French Open takeaways: For one day at least, it's America's tournament
MAY 25, 2014 4:24p ET
It was a good day for the United States in Paris on Sunday.
The French Open kicked off with six Americans in action, and five of them came out winners at the clay-court tournament that has caused great pains for just about everyone outside of Serena Williams in the past 105 years.
Serena, the defending champion and No. 1 women's seed, was a part of the solid day with a 6-2, 6-1 crushing of France's Alize Lim. The top American man, No. 10 seed John Isner, also played a part in the big day -- he beat France's Pierre-Hugues Herbert 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4), 7-5.
Also winning on the women's side were No. 29 Venus Williams, who beat Switzerland's Belinda Bencic 6-4, 6-1, and Varvara Lepchenko, who took care of the Czech Republic's Petra Cetkovska 6-4, 6-1. On the men's side, Sam Querrey also won, topping Italy's Filippo Volandri 7-6 (3), 6-4, 6-3.
The only loss the Americans took went to Grace Min, who went down 7-5, 7-6 (6) to Spain's Garbine Muguruza.
Sure, it's early, and sure, four of those five wins came from players among the country's top three in each gender, but it's nevertheless a good start. The men in particular have struggled mightily at Roland Garros in recent years. They were just 4-6 in the first round in 2013, 3-5 in 2012, and 2-7 in 2011. The last American's men's champion at the French Open was Andre Agassi in 1999.
Concerns about Roger Federer may be premature
The fourth-seeded Swiss lost his first match after the birth of his twin sons Leo and Lenny, a three-setter against France's Jeremy Chardy at the Italian Open in Rome. Between that and skipping the Madrid Masters for the birth, some were wondering what to make of Federer's chances in Paris.
Well, they look pretty good so far. Federer eviscerated Slovakia's Lukas Lacko in his first-round match Sunday, winning 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 in just 84 minutes.
It's a bit early to get excited -- Federer has won his last 43 first-round matches at Grand Slams -- but it's a good sign for Federer supporters. Still, the 17-time Slam champ made it clear who he thinks is in the driver's seat in Paris.
"Rafa is the favorite" to win the tournament, Federer proclaimed, saying Novak Djokovic comes next in the pecking order, "and then the rest (of us); it's very clear."
Second-tier contenders look strong
Part of that "rest of us" Federer refers to includes a trio of players who breezed through their openers Sunday. Most notably, No. 6 Tomas Berdych took care of business in short order. He knocked out Peter Polansky of Canada 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. The Czech made the semis at Roland Garros in 2010 but has disappointed since, losing in the first round in 2011 and 2013 and the fourth round in 2012.
Young Milos Raonic of Canada, the No. 8 seed also looked strong, beating Australia's Nick Kyrgios 6-3, 7-6 (1), 6-3. The 24-year-old Raonic continues to climb the rankings, though he has never been past the fourth round at a major.
Also winning was No. 20 Alexandr Dolgopolov. The Ukranian rolled Spain's Albert Ramos 7-6 (4), 6-4, 6-1. Dolgopolov doesn't have a strong track record at majors, but he was a semifinalist at Indian Wells and a quarterfinalist in Miami this year.
Match of the day
The first honor of the tournament goes to never-say-die Radek Stepanek. The 35-year-old Czech dropped the first two sets against Argentina's Facundo Arguello before rallying for a stirring five-set win. Final score: 6-7 (8), 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-2.
Photo of the day
Pierre-Hugues Herbert and his chair umpire pull off the rare synchronized argument:
Outfit of the day
Tomas Berdych, all set for his vacation in Hawaii:
The Associated Press contributed to this report.