Rafael Nadal reaches out for a forehand at the French Open on Monday. Photo: Reuters

PARIS – Defending champion Rafael Nadal got his bid for a record-extending 12th French Open title off to the perfect start by brushing aside German qualifier Yannick Hanfmann in the first round at Roland Garros on Monday.

The 17-time Grand Slam champion cruised to a 6-2 6-1 6-3 victory on the rebuilt Court Philippe Chatrier to set up a clash with another German qualifier – world number 114 Yannick Maden – in round two.

Nadal had suffered three consecutive semi-final defeats earlier in the clay-court season, but appeared to find his best in an Italian Open title success sealed with victory over old rival Novak Djokovic, while his French Open win-loss record now reads 87-2.

“It’s always amazing to play here, the new Chatrier is very nice,” the second seed said. “It’s been an important place in my career.

“I played a good tournament in Rome, which was very important for my confidence. Now we’ll see.”

The 32-year-old Nadal raced into a 3-0 lead in the opening set, before a second break of serve in the eighth game sealed it after just 40 minutes.

The second set was over in a flash as Nadal crushed nine winners past his beleaguered opponent.

The winning line honed into view when Nadal broke after a lengthy game to take a 2-1 advantage in the third, and the Spaniard completed the job on his first match point as world number 184 Hanfmann blasted long.

Later in the day, world number one Djokovic will start his tilt for a fourth straight Grand Slam title against Polish youngster Hubert Hurkacz, before 23-time women’s major champion Serena Williams takes on Russia’s Vitalia Diatchenko.

AFP