Paris, Sep 29 (efe-epa).- Serbian world No. 1 Novak Djokovic kicked off his quest for a second French Open title by routing Sweden’s Mikael Ymer 6-0, 6-2, 6-3 in first-round action on Tuesday, but fifth-seeded Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas had to rally from two sets down to edge Spain’s Jaume Munar 4-6, 2-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-4.
Djokovic, whose only loss thus far in the coronavirus-interrupted season came when he was defaulted from his fourth-round match against Spain’s Pablo Carreño Busta at the US Open for accidentally hitting a line judge with a ball, was in impeccable form at the outset on Court Philippe-Chatrier.
Striking the ball with depth, pace and accuracy with both his forehand and backhand and mixing in several backhand drop shot winners, the 17-time Grand Slam champion won the opening set in just 22 minutes against his shell-shocked opponent.
The statistics told the tale of the first set, with Djokovic hitting 10 winners, committing just one unforced error, breaking Ymer’s serve three times and winning 24 of the 31 points.
Ymer started putting up a bit more resistance in the second set, using his quickness to stay alive longer in the baseline rallies. But his lack of power on the serve continued to be a major problem as he won an extremely low 27 percent of his first-serve points and was broken three more times.
Even so, he hit perhaps the shot of the tournament thus far when he chased down a Djokovic lob midway through the second set and hit a between-the-legs passing shot winner with his back to the net.
The 22-year-old Swede was slightly more competitive in the third set, but he lost his serve three more times and also was unable to respond effectively to Djokovic’s repeated use of the drop shot.
Afterward, the 2016 French Open champion was asked if he perhaps went to that finesse option a few too many times.
“I think it’s a great variety shot, the drop shot. I think it’s important tactically to have it and to use it at the right time so that you can keep your opponent always guessing what the next shot is,” the 33-year-old Djokovic was quoted as saying on the ATP Tour’s website. “I may have played too many today, I agree. Maybe I exceeded what I should have played. But I think it worked well in the moments when I needed to get the point I did.”
Djokovic will next square off in the second round against Lithuania’s Ricardas Berankis, who like Ymer does not win many easy points with his first serve.
In other first-round men’s singles action on Tuesday, the sixth-ranked Tsitsipas was staring at a fourth straight early exit from a Grand Slam tournament but turned the match around thanks to potent hitting on the forehand side.
“It wasn’t working out for me in the beginning. Nothing was working. But I am really proud of myself, the effort I put in and the amount of dedication,” the Greek player, who was stunned at this year’s US Open by Croatia’s Borna Coric in a third-round, five-set epic, said afterward.
Tsitsipas, who will next play Uruguay’s Pablo Cuevas, is now the second-highest seed in Djokovic’s half of the draw after fourth-seeded Russian Daniil Medvedev lost in four sets to Hungary’s Marton Fucsovics in first-round play on Monday.
In women’s singles first-round action on Tuesday, second-seeded Czech Karolina Pliskova rallied from a set down to defeat Egyptian qualifier Mayar Sherif 6-7 (9-11), 6-2, 6-4 and fourth-seeded American Sofia Kenin, the 2020 Australian Open champion, overcame Russia’s Liudmila Samsonova 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. EFE-EPA