Roger Federer's first-round loss at the French Open here yesterday was a surprise but not a shock. The 21-year-old Swiss is a sublimely talented player who sometimes seems so laid back that he is almost horizontal. He will never be a do-or-die, all-action competitor like Austria's Thomas Muster, the player who inspired Federer's opponent, Luis Horna, from Peru.
Horna, a runner-up as a junior at the French Open in 1997, walked into Roland Garros yesterday, ranked No 88 in the world, to play in the main event for the first time and won for the first time at a Grand Slam championship, having lost in the opening round of last year's United States Open and the Australian Open in January.
Displaying a lively clay-court style, built around a powerful forehand, the 22-year-old from Lima pounced at Federer from the opening game and worked relentlessly to win, 7-6, 6-2, 7-6, after two hours and 11 minutes. His performance was reminiscent of the Spaniard Felix Mantilla's win against Federer in the final of the Rome Masters earlier this month, when the Swiss world No 5 lost momentum and lapsed into errors, shrugging rather than surging.
Federer made a fight of the opening set yesterday, recovering from 0-3 only to be broken when serving for the set at 5-4, missing a backhand. The Swiss held a set point at 6-5 in the tie-break, hitting a forehand wide of an open court, and lost the shoot-out, 8-6, landing a smash wide of an open court. "After he missed the set point," Horna said, "his attitude seemed to go down."
Horna won the first four games of the second set, building his confidence to a pitch where not even Federer's best shots were able to jolt him. Although he twice served to stay in the third set, at 4-5 and 5-6, Horna never appeared to be flustered. Federer was under pressure throughout the third set tie-break and double-faulted to 3-5, Horna going on to secure the concluding two points.
Shaking a fist in triumph, Horna celebrated his best day on a tennis court. "I'm on Centre Court playing and winning my first match at the French Open, and last month my daughter, Luna, was born, and things are pretty good for me right now," he said.
One of the few players to have made his Davis Cup debut as a 14-year-old, Horna has worked his way through "good times and really bad times" in his career. His game has been moulded on the clay courts of Argentina by his coach, Gabriel Markus, and he regards Buenos Aires as his second home.
"I definitely think I helped him [today]," Federer said. "He definitely didn't play a bad match, but I didn't play a good match. It's a big disappointment."
It was not, Federer emphasised, a question of underestimating an opponent he had beaten in straight sets in their only previous meeting on a rubberised concrete court in Key Biscayne in March. "I knew the danger," he said. "People were saying, 'Who is the first seed you're playing?' I told them, 'You guys have to relax a little bit, because I'm not playing a bad guy in the first round.' Here I am, sitting here, trying to explain why."
Federer has lost in the first round three times in five appearances at Roland Garros. Last year he was dispatched by Hicham Arazi, of Morocco, and two weeks later was beaten in the first round at Wimbledon by the big-serving Mario Ancic, of Croatia. In 2001, Federer was a quarter-finalist at the French Open and Wimbledon, where he eliminated Pete Sampras before losing to Britain's Tim Henman.
Constantly told that he is the classiest player in the game, Federer again showed that he can be a let-down. But that will not stop your correspondent, among others, from keeping faith and naming him as one of the players most likely to win the Wimbledon men's singles title less than six weeks hence, trusting that he will be more forceful on the grass.
Ancic, who has had a lean time since losing to Juan Carlos Ferrero, of Spain, in the fourth round of the Australian Open, is due to play Andre Agassi, the second seed, in round two. Ancic was the beneficiary yesterday of Marcelo Rios's retirement with an arm injury with the Croatian leading, 6-1, 1-0. Agassi breezed past Karol Beck, of Slovakia, 6-2, 6-3, 6-3.
Alex Corretja, the 16th seed, lost to a fellow Spaniard, Galo Blanco, a qualifier, 5-7, 6-3, 6-0, 7-5.
In the women's singles, Serena Williams was annoyed with herself after dropping a service game in the first set to Germany's Barbara Rittner, but picked up her game to win, 6-2, 6-1, after 54 minutes, adding to the entertainment by hitting more volleys than usual.
The Belgian fourth seed, Justine Henin-Hardenne, strolled into the second round, beating Patricia Wartusch, of Austria, 6-3, 7-5. She was joined by the French fifth seed, Amélie Mauresmo, who overcame nerves, an expectant public and her compatriot Virginie Razzano to progress 6-3, 7-5.
Fitness has become a by-word for Williams, but the winner of the last four Grand Slam singles titles would not be drawn when it came to discussing her weight. "I haven't stepped on a scale in about six or seven years," she said. "I never will step on a scale, so I'm not sure if I lost weight or not."
Why does she avoid the scales? Is it because a glance in the mirror is accurate enough? "I think it's an American thing," the world No 1 said. "Pretty much every woman in America thinks they're overweight. That's just the way we are. I currently believe like I need to lose 15 pounds. Even Venus says she needs to lose 15 pounds, which we know is ridiculous." So no stepping on the scales? "No. I can get depressed. Because muscle weighs a lot."
Men's first round results
(2) Andre Agassi (US) beat Karol Beck (Slvk) 6–2 6–3 6–3
(4) Carlos Moya (Spa) beat Filippo Volandri (Ita) 7–6(7) 4–6 6–2 6–3
Luis Horna (Peru) beat (5) Roger Federer (Swit) 7–6(6) 6–2 7–6(3)
(7) Guillermo Coria (Arg) beat Andre Sa (Bra) 6–3 6–1 6–1
Dominik Hrbaty (Slvk) beat (10) Paradorn Srichaphan (Thai) 6–4 3–6 6–0 7–5
(11) Rainer Schuettler (Ger) beat Cecil Mamiit (US) 6–1 2–6 6–4 6–2
(13) Jiri Novak (Cze) beat Julien Benneteau (Fra) 6–2 6–3 6–2
Galo Blanco (Spa) beat (16) Alex Corretja (Spa) 5–7 6–3 6–0 7–5
(17) Yevgeny Kafelnikov (Rus) beat Julien Boutter (Fra) 6–1 6–2 6–4
(22) Wayne Ferreira (SA) beat Tomas Behrend (Ger) 6–4 6–2 6–3
(23) Younes El Aynaoui (Mor) beat Anthony Dupuis (Fra) 6–4 6–4 6–4
(24) James Blake (US) beat Taylor Dent (US) 6–4 6–3 7–6(3)
(26) Xavier Malisse (Bel) beat Alex Calatrava (Spa) 7–5 6–4 6–2
(27) Mikhail Youzhny (Rus) beat David Sanchez (Spa) 6–3 6–0 6–0
(29) Vincent Spadea (US) beat Irakli Labadze (Geo) 6–1 3–6 5–7 6–4 6–1
(31) Juan Ignacio Chela (Arg) beat Cyril Saulnier (Fra) 3–6 7–6(3) 6–3 7–5
Nicolas Kiefer (Ger) beat Todd Larkham (Aus) 6–3 6–3 4–6 2–6 6–3
Attila Savolt (Hun) beat Andreas Vinciguerra (Swe) 7–5 7–6(4) 4–6 6–0
Giorgio Galimberti (Ita) beat Ivo Heuberger (Swit) 7–6(5) 4–6 6–2 6–2
Mark Philippoussis (Aus) beat Alex Kim (US) 2–6 6–7(1) 7–5 6–2 6–2
Mario Ancic (Cro) beat Marcelo Rios (Chile) 6–1 1–0, retired
Flavio Saretta (Bra) beat Alberto Martin (Spa) 7–6(4) 6–0 6–0
Marc Lopez (Spa) beat Nicolas Mahut (Fra) 7–5 6–1 7–6(5)
Ivan Ljubicic (Cro) beat Karol Kucera (Slvk) 6–2 6–3 6–2
David Ferrer (Spa) beat Jurgen Melzer (Aut) 6–2 6–2 7–6(2)
Christophe Rochus (Bel) beat Hermes Gamonal (Chile) 7–5 6–3 6–3
John van Lottum (Neth) beat Dick Norman (Bel) 6–3 3–6 2–6 6–3 6–4
Jean–Rene Lisnard (Fra) beat Mariano Delfino (Arg) 6–1 6–4 4–6 6–4
Mariano Puerta (Arg) beat Justin Gimelstob (US) 6–2 4–6 7–6(1) 6–1
Martin Verkerk (Neth) beat Zeljko Krajan (Cro) 6–3 6–4 6–4
Stefan Koubek (Aut) beat Alexander Popp (Ger) 7–5 6–2 6–3
Mariano Zabaleta (Arg) beat Feliciano Lopez (Spa) 6–2 7–6(8) 6–0
Women's first round results
(1) Serena Williams (US) beat Barbara Rittner (Ger) 6–2 6–1
(4) Justine Henin–Hardenne (Bel) beat Patricia Wartusch (Aut) 6–3 7–5
(5) Amelie Mauresmo (Fra) beat Virginie Razzano (Fra) 6–3 7–5
(8) Chanda Rubin (US) beat Henrieta Nagyova (Slvk) 6–2 6–4
(9) Daniela Hantuchova (Slvk) beat Alina Jidkova (Rus) 2–6 6–0 6–1
(11) Anastasia Myskina (Rus) beat Dinara Safina (Rus) 6–2 6–2
(14) Eleni Daniilidou (Gre) beat Nicole Pratt (Aus) 6–4 6–3
(16) Ai Sugiyama (Jpn) beat Virginia Ruano Pascual (Spa) 4–6 6–4 6–4
(18) Meghann Shaughnessy (US) beat Svetlana Kuznetsova (Rus) 3–6 7–5 11–9
(19) Patty Schnyder (Swit) beat Virginie Pichet (Fra) 6–1 6–0
(21) Lisa Raymond (US) beat Shinobu Asagoe (Jpn) 6–1 7–5
(23) Anna Pistolesi (Isr) beat Camille Pin (Fra) 6–1 6–1
Dally Randriantefy (Mad) beat (27) Alexandra Stevenson (US) 6–3 6–3
(28) Clarisa Fernandez (Arg) beat Mary Pierce (Fra) 6–2 6–3
Emilie Loit (Fra) beat (29) Elena Likhovtseva (Rus) 6–3 6–2
(31) Laura Granville (US) beat Meilen Tu (US) 1–6 6–1 6–4
Cara Black (Zim) beat Myriam Casanova (Swit) 6–4 4–6 6–4
Ashley Harkleroad (US) beat Saori Obata (Jpn) 6–4 6–2
Barbara Schett (Aut) beat Akiko Morigami (Jpn) 4–6 6–4 6–0
Flavia Pennetta (Ita) beat Amandine Dulon (Fra) 6–4 6–4
Stephanie Foretz (Fra) beat Eva Birnerova (Cze) 6–4 7–5
Lina Krasnoroutskaya (Rus) beat Jill Craybas (US) 6–1 6–3
Stephanie Cohen Aloro (Fra) beat Natalia Gussoni (Arg) 6–1 7–5
Petra Mandula (Hun) beat Marta Marrero (Spa) 6–2 6–3
Ludmila Cervanova (Slvk) beat Els Callens (Bel) 7–6 (7–4) 6–3
Iva Majoli (Cro) beat Cho Yoon–jeong (S Kor) 4–6 7–5 6–0
Marie–Gaiane Mikaelian (Swit) beat Angelique Widjaja (Indon) 6–3 4–6 7–5
Sandra Kleinova (Cze) beat Sarah Taylor (US) 6–3 6–4
Magui Serna (Spa) beat Maria Sharapova (Rus) 6–3 6–3
Fabiola Zuluaga (Col) beat Tamarine Tanasugarn (Thai) 6–0 6–2
Jelena Kostanic (Cro) beat Sophie Lefevre (Fra) 7–5 6–7 (5–7) 6–4
Tathiana Garbin (Ita) beat Christina Wheeler (Aus) 6–4 6–3