Paris, May 29 (EFE).- Spanish world No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz and Serbian great and two-time champion Novak Djokovic both eased into the second round of the French Open with straight-set victories on Monday.
But although neither player was in any real trouble during the contest, each faced more opposition as his match wore on.
Djokovic took the court first and completely owned the baseline over the first two sets against Aleksandar Kovacevic, repeatedly targeting his opponent’s one-handed backhand with high-bouncing topspin and also making effective use of the drop shot.
Although he squandered a service break late in the third set against the 114th-ranked American, the 22-time Grand Slam singles champion raced through the tiebreaker and finished off a 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (7-1) victory on Court Philippe-Chatrier with a forehand return-of-serve winner.
Afterward, the third-seeded Djokovic had words of praise for his 24-year-old opponent, who has a Serbian background but was born in the United States and has lived there most of his life.
“He made me work for my victory in the third set,” Djokovic said in the post-match press conference. “He was handling himself good there mentally, hanging in there.”
Alcaraz squared off in the late afternoon against Italian qualifier Flavio Cobolli and steamrolled his way through the first two sets.
The 2022 US Open champion showed his exquisite touch numerous times in the first set and even finished off one point by hitting a slice backhand winner around the net post.
Alcaraz then did not lose a single point on his first serve in the second set, which he finished off with a forehand down-the-line winner.
The third set was more competitive, however, with Cobolli even bringing the crowd on Court Suzanne-Lenglen to their feet when he retrieved an Alcaraz drop shot and fired a forehand crosscourt winner to break serve and even the score at 5-5.
The world No. 1 was able to avoid a tiebreaker though by breaking back in the next game and then clinching a 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 victory when his opponent missed a backhand return wide.
“In the third set, I was in trouble a little bit, but at the end I played a great level so I’m really very happy,” Alcaraz told reporters afterward.
In other men’s matches on Monday, eighth-seeded Italian Jannik Sinner rolled past 101st-ranked Frenchman Alexandre Muller 6-1, 6-4, 6-1 in Monday’s night session, but 10th-seeded Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime was bounced out of the tournament by Italian veteran Fabio Fognini 6-4, 6-4, 6-3.
In women’s action, 2018 French Open runner-up Sloane Stephens of the United States topped 16th-seeded Czech Karolina Pliskova 6-0, 6-4, 10th-seeded Czech Petra Kvitova lost to 44th-ranked Italian Elisabetta Cocciaretto 6-3, 6-4 and 12th-seeded Swiss Belinda Bencic was upset by Russian 134th-ranked lucky loser Elina Avanesyan 6-3, 2-6, 6-4.
Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia, the No. 5 seed, also was in danger of exiting the tournament in the first round, but she pulled out a 7-6 (7-4), 4-6, 6-4 victory over 64th-ranked Wang Xiyu of China. EFE