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Phelps, rowers and traffic early highlights of London Olympics

Michael Phelps and powerhouse rowing teams from Australia and Britain were the early highlights at the Olympics on Monday when London’s notoriously clogged roads appeared to handle the extra crush of traffic on the first business day of the games.

Phelps opened the defence of his Olympic title in the 200-meter butterfly with the fifth-fastest qualifying time in the preliminaries on Monday at the Aquatic Centre. Phelps has yet to have the quickest time in the morning heats at the London Games, four years after he won a record eight gold medals in Beijing.

“I’m pretty happy with that swim,” Phelps said. “That’s all I needed it to be.”

Phelps has won the 200 butterfly at the last two Olympics and set the world record at the 2009 world championships.

At the rowing regatta in Windsor, west of London, Australia issued a challenge to archrival Britain in the men’s four, setting an Olympic-best time in the heats to qualify fastest for the semifinals.

The flagship boats of both countries made their first appearances on Dorney Lake, with Australia making a bigger impression by winning the first heat in 5 minutes, 47.06 seconds. That broke Germany’s Olympic best time from eight years ago in Athens by 1.46 seconds.

Britain, which has won this event at the last three games, clocked 5:50.27. If they both progress to the final on Saturday from Thursday’s semifinals, it will be the most eagerly anticipated race of the regatta given the history and rivalry of the countries in this event.

London’s overstretched transit system won what could be described as a silver medal — or at least a podium performance — for handling the strain of the extra traffic of the Olympics. Monday morning’s rush hour was the biggest test yet of the host city’s transport network, as spectators and tourists heading for the games joined the city’s workers during peak hour. The games opened Friday night.

An accident closed a section of the M4, the highway that links Heathrow Airport to London. The route, busy at the best of times, has been narrowed as it approaches the city with the creation of “Games Lanes” reserved for official Olympic traffic.

Sporting events are taking place across London, from the Olympic Park in the east to tennis at Wimbledon in the southwest, equestrian contests at Greenwich in the southeast and football at Wembley Stadium in the west.

Alin George Moldoveanu of Romania won the first gold medal of the day in the 10-meter air rifle. Moldoveanu beat top-ranked Niccolo Campriani of Italy in the final, scoring 103.1 to 102.5.

Gagan Narang of India won the bronze.

Wimbledon champions Serena Williams and Roger Federer each won their second-round matches in the Olympic tennis tournament at the All England Tennis Club, site of their Grand Slam title more than three weeks ago.

Williams beat Urszula Radwanska of Poland 6-2, 6-3 while Federer had a similarly easy time defeating Julien Benneteau of France 6-2, 6-2.

American Andy Roddick beat Martin Klizan of Slovakia 7-5, 6-4 in a first-round match delayed by rain on Sunday. Roddick converted only two of 13 breakpoint chances but dominated with his serve.

“I served really well,” he said. “I would have liked to have converted more break points. But I got a couple and, thankfully, that’s all I needed.”

Lleyton Hewitt of Australia and Nikolay Davydenko of Russia, both three-time Olympians, won their opening matches. No. 9-seeded Juan Monaco of Argentina, No. 13 Marin Cilic of Croatia, No. 16 Richard Gasquet of France and big-serving Milos Raonic of Canada also advanced.

Top-seeded Victoria Azarenka moved into the second round with a 6-1, 3-6, 6-1 win over Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania. Azarenka needs to win gold to retain the top ranking in women’s tennis.

The big race at the pool on Monday night was set to be the men’s 200-meter freestyle. It features a loaded field, including Sun Yang of China, Park Tae-hwan of South Korea, American Ryan Lochte, Yannick Agnel of France and world record-holder Paul Biedermann of Germany.

On Monday, French president Francois Hollande said he was considering a bid for the 2024 Summer Games after losing out to London in the race to host the 2012 Olympics.

Hollande, who was in London to meet with the French athletes competing at the games, said he would back a bid if “all the conditions of success are present.”

France has ruled out a bid for the 2020 Olympics following Annecy’s humiliating defeat for the 2018 Winter Games. Before losing to London, the French capital had also failed to win the hosting rights for the 2008 Games, which were awarded to Beijing.