Mon, 25 Sep 2023

Novak Djokovic on Monday launched his quest for a record 23rd Grand Slam singles championships with a straignt sets win over the American Aleksandar Kovacevic.

Djokovic, seeded third and playing in his 18th French Open, breezed through the first set against the 24-year-old who was competing in the main draw in Paris for the first time.

Kovacevic appeared overwhelmed in the early stages and Djokovic - seeking a third triumph at the Roland Garros Stadium - took full advantage to claim the opener 6-3. It was one way traffic too in the second set which the 36-year-old Serb pocketed 6-2.

But the veteran fluffed his lines when serving at 5-4 up in the third. Kovacevic broke back to level and eventually take the set into the tiebreaker.

But Djokovic switched on the afterburners and won the shoot-out seven points to one.

"I think in the first sets I played really well," said Djokovic. "But then I missed opportunities and lost a little focus in the third set but his level was strong.


"It wasn't an easy opponent. I had to earn it."

Tenth-seed Felix Auger-Aliassime went down in straight sets to Fabio Fognini from Italy.

"I've been struggling with a few things and it's like, can you believe it, I get sick the day before my match," said the 22-year-old Canadian.

"I tried to warm up. I tried to see the doctor, see what I could take, but after one set, you know, I was just cramping and I just couldn't move anymore."

The 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka edged a five-set slugfest with the Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinola. The 38-year-old Swiss took the decider 6-4 after four hours and 35 minutes of combat.


Top seed Carlos Alcaraz was home and dry in well under half that time. He took the opening two sets against the Italian qualifier Flavio Cobolli 6-0, 6-2 in 52 minutes. But the 21-year-old found his range in the third. Alcaraz eventually won it 7-5. That it took 64 minutes was a pyrrhic victory.

In the women's draw, the 2018 runner-up Sloane Stephens dispatched the 16th seed Karolina Pliskova.

"It was a tough first round draw and I knew it would be a tough match so I'm just happy to be through and playing some good tennis," said the 30-year-old American.

The 12th seed Belinda Bencic also went out. The Swiss lost in three sets to to the 20-year-old Russian Elina Avanesyan.

But the local heroine Caroline Garcia cheered the partisans with a gutsy three-set win over Xiyu Wang from China.

Garcia, the fifth seed, took the decider 6-4 after two hours and 38 minutes on centre court.

"It was wonderful to play here," said the 29-year-old. "It means a lot to me to feel the emotion and energy. I hope to have many more matches like this."

Originally published on RFI

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