Federer fireworks light up Paris as Serena toils

By Miles Evans

PARIS (Reuters) - Roger Federer said it was too early to talk of a final showdown with Rafa Nadal at the French Open, but the Swiss maestro did little to dispel the mouthwatering prospect with a dashing display Monday.

While Federer dismissed Australian Peter Luczak in his first-round clash with the air of a man in an exhibition match, Serena Williams made stuttering progress and Andy Murray clawed his way through after Richard Gasquet's swashbuckling display ran out of steam on another balmy day in Paris.

With organizers making everyone wait until Tuesday for Nadal's bow, it was down to Federer to set the tournament alight, and so he did with a string of mocking drop shots and punishing angles that left the tireless world number 71 Luczak trailing in his wake.

Federer triumphed 6-4 6-2 6-1 in just an hour and 48 minutes of action, and no sooner had he left Court Philippe Chatrier that talk of renewing battle with Nadal started afresh.

"I don't know if I need to answer the same question all the time, but I hope I'll be playing the finals," a ruffled Federer said after a spectator overcome by the 30 degree Celsius heat provided one of the few interruptions to his victory charge.

"It's the first round, not the semi-finals, unfortunately. But we'll see."

Federer treated the crowd to every shot in his arsenal, snuffing out one of the match's longer rallies with the most delicate of drops which had the crowd on its feet and the Swiss pointing to the cloudless sky in smiling enjoyment.

"It was kind of a (drop shot) festival, it's good when it works but when it doesn't, you look a bit ridiculous."

Williams found little to laugh about in an untidy 7-6 6-2 win over Swiss Stefanie Voegele, who had the 2002 champion clenching her fist with fierce determination throughout.

"I definitely didn't feel good about it. At least I won. I think I'm still in the tournament, that's what matters," Williams said after a patchy performance laced with 22 unforced errors.

The French public and press had been licking their lips ever since Murray was drawn against resurgent home hope Richard Gasquet, and the clash between two of the game's best shotmakers lived up to its top billing.

But the fourth seed ground down the wilting Frenchman, and there looked only one winner from the moment Murray won the third before going on to record a draining 4-6 6-7 6-4 6-2 6-1 win after over four hours in the heat of Court Suzanne Lenglen.

"I like Richard a lot, but I think that's not a valid excuse at all," said Murray, who also came back from two sets down to win against Gasquet at Wimbledon two years ago.

"It's one of the reasons why none of the higher ranked players play the week before, because it's tough coming from one place to the next."

Men's third seed Novak Djokovic, recently out of action after suffering allergy problems, dispatched Evgeny Korolev in four sets while American men enjoyed a rare day to celebrate in Paris.

Wins for John Isner, Taylor Dent and Mardy Fish mean there is already more U.S. players in the men's second-round than last year and that is with sixth seed Andy Roddick and the all-American first-round tie between Sam Querrey and Robby Ginepri still to come.

After a patient wait, the crowds finally get to see former Roland Garros royalty Tuesday when Nadal and another four-time champion Justine Henin make their eagerly anticipated bows on the courts they once owned.

(Editing by Martyn Herman)