The 28-year-old Frenchman ended the contest on Court Suzanne Lenglen on his first match point with a service winner.
Federer is used to ending Grand Slam tournaments on Sundays rather than starting them, but the French Open’s quirky schedule could not throw the Swiss stylist off his stride as he strolled through his Roland Garros opener in ruthless fashion a day earlier.
The 31-year-old had his nose put out of joint when forced to play on the opening Sunday when the French Open brought forward the start in 2006, but he was serene as he thrashed Spanish Grand Slam rookie Pablo Carreno-Busta 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 in the first round this year.
Federer, who often does his post-match press conferences in three languages, was impressive on the opening day alongside the Bois de Boulogne.
The Swiss former champion, seeded two and with a realistic chance of reaching the final after being placed in the opposite half of the draw to his Roland Garros nemesis Nadal and world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, sealed victory with a graceful backhand winner.
“It’s clearly important to win in straight sets if you can and not waste extra energy,” Federer told reporters. “I put a lot of focus on that always, especially in the early rounds of a tournament.”
Gilles Simon, one of six Frenchmen seeded as the host nation desperately craves a first male champion since Yannick Noah in 1983, gave fans on Court Suzanne Lenglen anxiety attacks as he lost the opening two sets to old warrior Lleyton Hewitt, before recovering to win 3-6, 1-6, 6-4, 6-1, 7-5.
Simon led 5-0 in the fifth set, but an attack of nerves almost let veteran Aussie Hewitt steal victory.
“I’m just sad that it takes me one hour to feel good on the court,” Simon told reporters. “Today I got lucky.”
David Ferrer, seeded fourth after the withdrawal of Britain’s Andy Murray, eased into the second round with a 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 defeat of another Australian, Marinko Matosevic, who has now lost his last nine Grand Slam first-round matches.
Two women’s seeds fell on Sunday, most notably fading force Venus Williams, who suffered only her fifth first-round defeat in 59 Grand Slam tournaments when she was dispatched 7-6 (7/5), 6-7 (4/7), 6-4 by Poland’s Urszula Radwanska with darkness falling.
Women’s No. 11 seed Nadia Petrova of Russia was the day’s highest-ranked casualty, losing to Puerto Rican teenager Monica Puig 3-6, 7-5, 6-4, but last year’s runner-up, Sara Errani, was untroubled beating Arantxa Rus 6-1, 6-2.
Federer, who in 2006 made his feelings known to organizers after being served up as a tasty tournament appetizer for a Sunday first-round match against Diego Hartfield, was far more relaxed this time round after again being asked to showcase the tournament’s unique Sunday start.
Up against a young Spaniard who won seven consecutive titles at the third-tier Futures level of the men’s tour this season, Federer warmed to the task immediately.
“I remember they sort of forced me to play on Sunday years back to promote their Sunday thing,” Federer told reporters. “Wimbledon does it in 13 days and the French does it in 15. So it doesn’t make sense, but I do understand that a weekend for tennis is very important for the people who can show up. But I’m happy this time around. I told them if they wanted me to play Sunday, whatever, I’m fine with it. They took that opportunity right away.”