Tomas Berdych embarked on the best six weeks of his career at this stage last year, reaching the semi-finals of the French Open and going on to make the final at Wimbledon. Yesterday the 25-year-old Czech was at a loss to explain how he had become the first major casualty here, losing 3-6, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2, 9-7 to the French No 16, Stephane Robert, a 31-year-old who had only ever won one previous match at a Grand Slam tournament.
Berdych had his chances. The world No 6 won the first two sets and was a break up in the decider, in which he had a match point at 5-4, but still contrived to lose to the world No 140.
Robert says he is a changed man after giving up what he calls "casino tennis".
Having previous gambled by going for too many "crazy" winning shots, he now says he plays with more care. Not that his game had been showing much of an improvement: until yesterday the Frenchman had not won a match on the main tour for nearly five months.
"I cannot imagine that somebody who can play tennis like this can be out of the top 100, playing qualifications, but that's the sport," Berdych said afterwards. "Maybe it's too early to just analyse what was happening on the court. That's what can happen in the long matches, and sadly it happened to me today."
Robert, who reached a career-high No 61 in the world rankings last year, said: "In the third set he started to give me some points. Winning that set gave me confidence and I became more aggressive on the return."
Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, No 2 and No 3 in the world, had no such difficulties. Djokovic, who has not lost a match since November, won his 40th match in succession, beating the Dutchman Thiemo de Bakker 6-2, 6-1, 6-3. Djokovic, who has never gone beyond the semi-finals here, celebrated his 24th birthday at the Serbian embassy on Sunday and was clearly still in ebullient mood from the moment he went on court.
De Bakker, the world No 71, had just one break point. Djokovic is on course for a third-round confrontation with the former US Open champion, Juan Martin del Potro, who came from a set down to beat Ivo Karlovic 6-7, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4.
"It was a great first match for me at Roland Garros," Djokovic said. "I was serving really well and being very aggressive. Pressure is always there. Over the years you learn how to deal with it. I know there is a lot of expectation because of the streak I have, but I'm really happy the way I'm handling things right now on and off the court."
Federer, the winner here two years ago, beat Feliciano Lopez 6-3, 6-4, 7-6. The former world No 1 broke just once in the first two sets against the big-serving Spaniard and won the tie-break 7-3, securing a second-round meeting with France's Maxime Teixeira with an ace.
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