ATP: Novak Djokovic begins French Open defense with straight-sets win

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World No. 1 Novak Djokovic launched his title defense at the French Open with a 6-4, 7-6 (3), 6-4 win over France’s Pierre-Hugues Herbert on Tuesday in Paris.

Djokovic, who has yet to win a tournament of any kind this season and has expressed frustrations with his game, is seeking his fourth title at Roland Garros and his record 25th win at a Grand Slam event.

“In the moments when it mattered, I think I delivered, played a great tiebreak, stayed focused,” Djokovic said in his post-match press conference. “I’m glad that I started the way I started, the way I felt on the court. Comparing to the previous weeks of tournaments I played, I felt good, better. So I’m moving in a positive direction. It’s just the beginning.”

Playing under a closed roof as one of the final matches of the night, the Serbian won 47 of his 56 first-serve points (84 percent) and capitalized on Herbert’s mistakes. While Herbert had a 7-4 edge in aces and a 37-29 advantage in total winners, he committed seven double faults and 31 unforced errors in all.

“Every time I would step back for second serve, give him a little bit different look, he would see that, he would come in,” Djokovic said of his opponent. “His kick is tremendous. Honestly, one of the best kick serves I have faced. Very talented, mixing things up. He can come to the net, just very crafty with his hands.”

Djokovic’s next opponent will be Roberto Carballes Baena of Spain, who beat Constant Lestienne of France 6-3, 7-5, 4-6, 6-2.

The next highest-seeded player in action after Djokovic was No. 7 Casper Ruud, and the Norwegian got off to a stellar start with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 win over Brazilian qualifier Felipe Meligeni Alves.

A clay specialist, Ruud lost the French Open final to Djokovic last year and to Spaniard Rafael Nadal the year before. He’s still searching for his first Grand Slam.

“Obviously a bit nervous coming in, based on the two previous years here,” Ruud said. “Definitely a lot of points at stake and a lot of things I want to achieve here. A bit nervous but I’m very happy with today’s win.”

The only seeded player to fall Tuesday was Frenchman Adrian Mannarino, the 22nd seed. Italian qualifier Giulio Zeppieri pulled off a 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 upset.

No. 11 seed Alex de Minaur of Australia breezed past Alex Michelsen 6-1, 6-0, 6-2. No. 12 Taylor Fritz rebounded from a dropped first set to beat Federico Coria of Argentina 2-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-1.

No. 13 Holger Rune of Denmark beat Great Britain’s Daniel Evans in straight sets, while No. 19 Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan did the same against French qualifier Gregoire Barrere. No. 26 seed Tallon Griekspoor of the Netherlands, No. 28 Tomas Martin Etcheverry and No. 31 Mariano Navone, the latter two representing Argentina, each won four-set affairs.

Two matches went the distance Tuesday. David Goffin of Belgium took down French wild card Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-3, while Thanasi Kokkinakis won an all-Australian battle over Alexei Popyrin 4-6, 7-6 (8), 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 in four hours and 24 minutes.

Also advancing were Italians Flavio Cobolli and Luciano Darderi, Spaniards Alejandro Davidovich Fokina and Jaume Munar, Tomas Machac of the Czech Republic, Arthur Rinderknech of France and Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany.

–Field Level Media

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