Lleyton Hewitt, playing in his 10th French Open, staged a stunning comeback yesterday, recovering from two sets down to beat Ivo Karlovic, the big-serving Croatian who unfurled a record 55 aces in the epic match but still slipped to his first loss in four meetings with the former Wimbledon champion. Karlovic looked to be cruising through to the second round when he won the first set on a tie-break and then the second in similar fashion. But Hewitt claimed the third set on a tie-break and broke once in both the fourth and fifth sets to complete a 6-7 (1-7) 6-7 (4-7) 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 6-3 win.
Hewitt plays Kazakhstan's Andrey Golubev in round two after he beat Denis Gremelmayr and the victor is likely to meet with four-time champion and world No 1 Rafael Nadal in round three. Fernando Verdasco wasted little time in brushing aside Florent Serra in straight sets to reach the second round. The Spaniard, who lost to Nadal in the semi-final of the Australian Open earlier this year, launched his Roland Garros campaign with an impressive display in his 6-2 6-1 6-4 victory. Meanwhile, Marat Safin, the two-time grand slam champion, eased to a 6-4 6-4 6-4 success over Frenchman Alexandre Sidorenko.
It was only the Russian's second win on clay in his farewell season. Croatia's Marin Cilic, the 13th seed, lost just seven games as he cruised past Jan Hernych 6-0 6-4 6-3. Elsewhere, there were wins for Dudi Sela and French lucky loser Mathieu Montcourt, who progressed after opponent Yen-Hsun Lu retired injured. Meanwhile, France's Gael Monfils, the 11th seed, confirmed at a press conference he will be fit to play Bobby Reynolds in his first-round match tomorrow even though he is suffering with a knee injury.
* With agencies