Novak Djokovic shrugs off mixed reaction to advance at French Open

Novak Djokovic during a match Credit: Alamy
Novak Djokovic during a match Credit: Alamy

Novak Djokovic began his pursuit for a men’s record 23rd Grand Slam singles championship with a straight-sets triumph against Aleksandar Kovacevic in the first round of the French Open on Monday.

Djokovic, a two-time Roland Garros champion, halted a late rally from his American opponent to win 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (7/1) on Court Philippe Chatrier.

The Serbian hasn’t lost in the first round of a major since the 2006 Australian Open.

“I’m very motivated to stay in this tournament for a long time, it’s just the start now,” Djokovic after kicking off his 19th consecutive French Open campaign with a victory.

“I’m happy. I’ve started well and hope I can improve further for the next match.”

In the second round, the 36-year-old will play Hungarian Marton Fucsovics, whom he has defeated four times in four matches.

Despite the absence of his biggest opponent and 14-time winner Rafael Nadal due to injury, Djokovic is seeded third at Roland Garros this year, behind world number one Alcaraz and Daniil Medvedev.

He is equal with Nadal for the most men’s Slam singles titles and one behind Serena Williams’ 23. Margaret Court holds the all-time record with a tally of 24 although her titles are split between those won in the amateur era and the open era.

Kovacevic, the world number 114, fought valiantly but was unable to put Djokovic under any real strain until it was too late.

Djokovic breezed through the first two sets until Kovacevic broke for the first time in the match to tie up the third set at 3-3, only to drop service soon thereafter.

To the joy of a certain section of the spectators, Djokovic slipped when serving for the match, and Kovacevic forced a tie-break.

But the world no 3 swiftly rebounded, dominating the tiebreaker before crushing Kovacevic’s resolve once and for all with a thunderous forehand return on his first match point.

Felix Auger-Aliassime, the 10th seed from Canada, was defeated 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 by Fabio Fognini in the first round at Roland Garros.

The mercurial Italian, who has lost in the first round six matches in nine events this season, pulled off a stunning victory on Court Simonne Mathieu.

Cameron Norrie, the 14th seed from the United Kingdom, defeated home wildcard Benoit Paire 7-5, 4-6, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 in a five-set thriller on Court Suzanne Lenglen.

Last year’s Wimbledon semi-finalist will face resurgent Frenchman Lucas Pouille in the second round.

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