PARIS – On the occasion of his record-tying 233rd victory in a Grand Slam match, Roger Federer was asked Monday whether he recalls which player he beat for his first win at a major tournament.
"Well, I should, shouldn't I? Um, let me see," Federer said, then hesitated and rubbed his eyes before conceding: "OK. I can't remember."
A reporter reminded him it was Michael Chang at the 2000 Australian Open.
"Was it? Well, that was a beautiful victory, then," the 16-time major champion replied with a grin.
Federer equaled Jimmy Connors' Open era mark and improved to 233-35 at tennis' top four tournaments by beating Tobias Kamke of Germany 6-2, 7-5, 6-3 in the first round of the French Open.
"You step back, you realize you have been playing for quite a long time. ... When I started, I loved playing against those famous players I used to see on TV. Now I'm playing against younger players, a new generation," he said. "It's great I didn't suffer that many injuries over these years. And I always had fun playing tennis."
Connors won eight Grand Slam titles while going 233-49 from 1970-92, an .826 winning percentage bettered by Federer's .869.
"Jimmy Connors was a huge champion. Still is," Federer said.
He improved to 50-12 at Roland Garros, where his 2009 championship completed a career Grand Slam. Now Federer is the only man with at least 50 Open era match wins each at all four.
And here's one more stat: Federer is playing in his 50th consecutive major tournament, the longest active streak and third-longest in the Open era, which began in 1968, when professionals were allowed into the Grand Slam events.
"Look, I obviously love the big tournaments," he said. "I have been so successful for such a long time, and to already tie that record (at) 30 years old is pretty incredible, so I'm very happy."
His 30th birthday was Aug. 8, and Federer is trying to become the oldest man to win a Grand Slam tournament since Andre Agassi was 32 at the 2003 Australian Open. Federer has gone more than two years without a major title — his longest drought since winning his first at Wimbledon in 2003.
On Monday, Federer was not quite perfect against the 78th-ranked Kamke, who fell to 6-10 at Grand Slams and has never advanced past the third round at any.
There were hiccups, particularly with the Swiss star's serving. He was broken once in each set, including while trying to serve for the match at 5-2 in the third. He also piled up 47 unforced errors, 16 more than Kamke.
"They're never easy, those first rounds, you know. Last thing you want is to go down a set or getting in a tough situation, but I was able to stay ahead in the first set. Had bits of ups and downs on my serve," Federer said. "But overall, I'm happy I'm through. That's what I look at in the end."
And now no one in the Open era has managed to get through at Grand Slams more often than Federer.
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