Paris, Jun 3 (EFE).- Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal all advanced to the third round of the French Open on Thursday with convincing victories.
The three all-time greats, grouped together in the same half of a Grand Slam main draw for the first time in their illustrious careers, saved energy for battles to come by each winning their matches in under three hours.
Federer took on Croatia’s Marin Cilic in Thursday’s first men’s match on Court Philippe-Chatrier, the opponent he defeated in the championship match in his two most recent Grand Slam victories: the 2017 Wimbledon and the 2018 Australian Open.
In the players’ first meeting on clay since 2011, Federer overcame a second-set dip in his level and won a crucial third-set tiebreaker en route to a 6-2, 2-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-2 victory.
Federer racked up 16 aces over the course of the match and only lost his serve on three occasions.
The eighth-ranked Swiss great got off to a fast start by breaking Cilic’s serve in the third and fifth games of the match, although the Croatian former world No. 3 returned the favor with a dominating performance in the second set.
Danger lurked for Federer when he failed to convert four break opportunities with Cilic serving down 1-3 in the third set and then the set came down to a tiebreaker. But his strong play on second serve proved decisive as he got out of that jam and took a two-set-to-one lead.
Federer then won the fourth set comfortably to book a third-round clash against 59th-ranked German Dominik Koepfer.
“(It was a) very good match for me, I thought,” Federer said afterward. “A bit of up-and-downs in the second and third sets. The good thing, I feel like I come out of a match like this and I know why it was up and down, and then that I was able to attain a solid level once he did break back in the third set and things were looking dangerous for me.”
The top-ranked Djokovic was in control from start to finish in a 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 victory over Uruguay’s Pablo Cuevas on Court Suzanne-Lenglen.
The 2016 champion is now oozing confidence as he tries to become the first men’s player in the Open Era (dating back to 1968) to win each of tennis’ Grand Slam events at least twice.
“I’m playing well, feeling great. I’m ready to go deep in this tournament,” said the Serbian, who will next take on Lithuania’s Ricardas Berankis. “Hopefully that’s going to be the case. But I’ll take it match by match, and so far the two matches that I have played have been played in a high quality.”
In Thursday’s night session, 13-time champion Nadal celebrated his 35th birthday with a 6-0, 7-5, 6-2 victory over fellow ATP Tour veteran Richard Gasquet.
Nadal used his deep, high-bouncing ground strokes to dominate the rallies and grab a 6-0, 5-2 lead, although Gasquet struck back to claim three straight games and level the second set at 5-5.
The Spanish world No. 3 righted the ship quickly, however, breaking his opponent’s serve for the fifth time in the match to grab a two-set lead.
The third set stayed close until 2-2, but Nadal reeled off the final four games to run his career mark against the Frenchman to 17-0 and his overall record at Roland Garros (dating back to 2005) to 102-2.
Nadal will next square off in the third round against Great Britain’s Cameron Norrie.
With a 14th championship at Roland Garros, the Spaniard would also capture a record-setting 21st Grand Slam men’s singles title.
Nadal and the 39-year-old Federer currently share the record, while the 34-year-old Djokovic is close behind with 18 major titles. EFE